ROCHESTER — A Phelps woman is going to prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her Seneca Falls employer.
Karen Owens, 55, was sentenced Friday in federal court to two years in prison after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Judge Frank Geraci Jr. also ordered Owens to pay slightly more than $600,000 in restitution.
The sentencing was announced in a press release by the office of James Kennedy Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan McGuire, who prosecuted the case, said Owens was the finance director for Finger Lakes Conveyors from 2003-17. In that role, she had authority to write checks from the company’s bank account to pay legitimate business expenses.
From 2011-17, McGuire said Owens wrote nearly 400 checks — payable to herself — from the company’s bank account and deposited them into an account she owned and controlled. During that same time period, she wrote about 160 checks payable to another bank for credit-card accounts belonging to Owens and her husband.
To conceal some of the fraudulent and unauthorized checks, McGuire said Owens failed to accurately record the checks in Finger Lakes Conveyors’ records.
Owens wrote checks totaling more than $750,000.
She was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2019 following an FBI investigation.
Laura Myers, the attorney for Finger Lakes Conveyors President Mike Gelder, sent the following statement by email:
“The victim of this crime, Michael Gelder, the former owner of Finger Lakes Conveyors, is relieved that this matter is finally over and that Ms. Owens is finally going to pay for her crimes,” Myers said. “Judge Geraci made sure that justice is being served by sending defendant Owens to prison, because prison is where she belongs after her years of lies and deception.
“Mr. Gelder hopes that anyone else who is thinking about committing this type of crime will realize if they are caught they will go to jail, and it is not worth it,” Myers added. “Most importantly, Mr. Gelder and his family are now going to focus on the future and putting defendant Owens’ betrayal behind them.”
In an April 2019 article in the Times, Myers said Owens signed an affidavit admitting she stole about $1.4 million from 2004 until August 2017, when she was fired.
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, explaining the statute of limitations on bank and wire fraud is 10 years.
Federal officials were able to prove the theft of $750,000 through bank records, Myers noted. She said the company has more complete records.
“There is no question she actually stole ($1.4 million),” Myers said.