A Feb. 5 sentencing date has been set for a bookkeeper who pleaded guilty to devising an elaborate scheme to defraud a family-owned trucking company and farm in Missouri out of more than $700,000.
Christen Diane Schulte, 34, of Washington, Missouri, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
At that time, U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig scheduled Schulte for sentencing on Nov. 10. However, Fleissig granted two requests to delay sentencing filed by Shulte’s attorney, Andrew Henderson, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that Schulte needed more time to put her affairs in order, according to court documents.
Federal prosecutors claimed Schulte, who worked as the bookkeeper and office manager of Maczuk Farms Trucking (MFT) and Maczuk Farms in New Haven, Missouri, diverted a total of $727,000 in company funds over two years from January 2018 to February 2020.
“As part of her scheme, Schulte fraudulently and without permission used the companies’ credit cards for personal expenditures,” according to court filings.
She also had American Express and FirstBank issue her new credit cards in the farm and trucking company’s names and charged more than 1,800 transactions, racking up more than $532,000 on the credit cards.
In addition, Schulte forged the owner’s signature and several of the company employees’ signatures on checks from several different bank accounts, including personal accounts of the employees, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
Some of the checks were made payable to Schulte, while others she made payable to the companies to hide the missing funds related to her credit card scheme.
The trucking company owner also served as the treasurer of the Berger Levee District (BLD) of Franklin County and kept the water district’s checkbook at his office.
Prosecutors claim Schulte forged the owner’s name on six checks, totaling more than $113,000 from the BLD account and made them payable to the five-truck company and farm to conceal the scheme.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Schulte used the money to purchase jewelry, a travel trailer, vehicles, and tickets to Universal Studios and Green Bay Packers football games, and to pay for living expenses.
Schulte faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the two wire fraud charges; a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the two bank fraud charges; and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of $250,000, or twice the amount laundered, on the money laundering charge, according to prosecutors. She must also pay restitution.