Oakland, California - Consuelo “Connie” Puente pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft yesterday, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas McMahon.
According to court documents, from May 19, 2008 to June 18, 2013, Puente was employed by a company in Concord, Calif. In January 2009, Puente was assigned to the payroll department and was the only employee responsible for handing payroll for her employer. From June 2009 through June 2013, Puente admitted she devised a scheme to defraud her employer by receiving wages paid in the names of former employees. Puente obtained three employees’ personal identifying information from the company’s personnel files. She changed their status to current employees so that her employer would pay wages in their names. Puente listed her bank account information as the bank account to receive the wages. As a result, between 2009 and 2013, her employer erroneously transferred net wages of $543,545.08 into Puente’s bank accounts. The company also paid withholdings of $84,362.45 for a total of $627,907.53 in gross wages. To account for the wages paid in the names of the former employees, Puente prepared IRS Forms W-2 for each of the former employees. Puente also admitted that she filed false tax returns for 2009 through 2013 that omitted the $543,545.08 she stole from the company, resulting in $151,987 in tax liabilities.
Puente, 44, of Sacramento, was indicted on March 18, 2014, and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. She pleaded guilty to one count of each. Puente’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2015, before the Honorable Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, United States District Court Judge, in San Francisco.
The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1343, is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1028A, is two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Assistant US Attorney Thomas Moore is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the IRS, Criminal Investigation and the Concord Police Department.