ROCHESTER — The Phelps woman accused of stealing more than $1 million from her employer has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Karen Owens, 54, was indicted Tuesday on charges of wire and bank fraud. The two-count indictment was announced by James Kennedy Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan McGuire, who is handling the case, said Owens was the director of finance at Finger Lakes Conveyors in Seneca Falls from 2003 to 2017. According to the indictment, she embezzled more than $750,000 from the company by writing about 550 unauthorized checks to herself and to pay off her and her husband’s personal credit cards.
McGuire said Owens concealed the checks by falsely recording them in the company’s ledger as payments to Finger Lakes Conveyor vendors. The indictment follows an investigation by the FBI.
In an April 11 article in the Finger Lakes Times, Laura Myers — attorney for Finger Lakes Conveyors President Mike Gelder — said Owens signed an affidavit admitting she stole about $1.4 million from 2004 until August 2017, when she was fired.
Gelder sold Finger Lakes Conveyors to another company last year but remains president.
In an email to the Times Wednesday, Myers said Owens refused a “very generous” plea deal she was offered before the grand jury indictment. Myers also discussed the discrepancy between the $1.4 million figure and the $750,000 figure reported by federal officials, saying the statute of limitations on bank and wire fraud is 10 years.
Myers added that federal officials were only able to allege the theft of $750,000 through bank records. She said the company has more complete records.
“There is no question she actually stole that much ($1.4 million),” Myers said. “It’s very bizarre she didn’t take the deal.”
Myers declined to say what that deal was, deferring to federal officials. An email to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday was not returned.
Myers previously said as part of the affidavit confession, Owens agreed to pay the money back to Finger Lakes Conveyors through two large transactions and a series of monthly payments. Myers said Owens made a payment of $130,000 in November 2017 and was required to make a $70,000 payment the next month, but did not do so.
Myers added that Owens has been making payments of $500 a month, and Myers is hopeful more money will be recouped in the form of court-ordered restitution. However, Myers acknowledged that Finger Lakes Conveyors is unlikely to recoup most of the stolen money.
Finger Lakes Times reporter Steve Buchiere contributed to this article.