Already serving six years and eight months in federal prison for embezzling more than $700,000 from the trucking company where she worked, a Missouri woman has been sentenced to two more years in prison for committing Paycheck Protection Program loan fraud.
U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schlep called Christen Diane Schulte’s behavior “outrageous” and “very aggravating,” in a statement from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.
In September, Schulte, now 37, of Washington, Missouri, pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud, admitting she filed fraudulent PPP loan applications for a business called the Mama Bear Cake Co. from March to May 2021.
Although her first application, submitted in March 2021 for a $13,691 loan, was rejected once the bank, First Community Credit Union, discovered her criminal history, prosecutors said she successfully obtained two PPP loans through Benworth Capital Partners for over $27,000 in April 2021.
According to court filings, the money for the second loan from Benworth Capital was deposited into her Mama Bear Cake Co. account eight days before she was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison in May 2021.
She was indicted on the new fraud charges in November 2021, three months after she began serving her sentence in an Illinois federal prison for stealing more than $700,000 from family-owned Maczuk Farms Trucking and Maczuk Farms in New Haven, Missouri, where she worked as a bookkeeper for nearly two years.
Schulte admitted to lying on the PPP loan applications “when asked if she was facing or had been convicted of a felony, and when asked the same question about a felony involving fraud, bribery, embezzlement or a false statement in an application for a loan or for federal assistance.”
According to the business entity search on the Missouri secretary of state’s database, Schulte paid $7 to register her home-based business in February 2020.
Schulte also lied about the gross income of her cake company on her applications, claiming she made over $65,000 to “substantiate the loans.” The forgivable-loan program was administered by the Small Business Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic to help struggling businesses pay employees, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.
Once released from prison, Schulte will serve five years of supervised release and has been ordered to repay the PPP loan funds, in addition to paying more than $517,000 in restitution to the Maczuk companies.
Schulte’s embezzlement scheme
Over a two-year period, Schulte admits she diverted a total of $727,000 in company funds from the Maczuk companies.
“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 companies’ 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 and several company employees’ signatures on checks from multiple 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 say Schulte forged the owner’s name on six checks, totaling more than $113,000, from the BLD account and made them payable to the trucking company and farm to conceal the scheme.
Federal prosecutors say Schulte used the money funneled from the trucking company to purchase jewelry, a travel trailer, vehicles, and tickets to Universal Studios and Green Bay Packers football games, and to pay for living expenses.
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