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Western Pennsylvania woman charged with embezzling $1.4 million

A 37-year-old Moon Township woman has been accused of embezzling almost $1.4 million from her place of employment over the past several years. The charges the woman faces include forgery, theft and fraud.

The woman had been working as an office manager at Allegheny Psychological Services and Allegheny Forensic Associates, according to the complaint filed by the district attorney. The businesses, which share an office in Pittsburgh, offer physiological evaluations and mental health services for children.

"You're taking money from children, which obviously compromises services," Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala told reporters.

Allegedly, the woman used some of the funds to pay numerous personal bills, including her mortgage, her sister's phone bill and her daughter's car payment, the district attorney said. She is also accused of shopping while on vacation with a company debit card and writing company checks out to her boyfriend.

A business owner is said to have discovered the alleged fraud when he noticed unusual financial transactions on the company debit card occurring in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the woman was vacationing at the time.

When she was indicted earlier this week, an attorney for the woman said that there were "extenuating" facts involved with the case, but did not go into any detail as to what they were.

According to documents filed by the district attorney, the woman wrote apologetic e-mails to her former employer, saying that she wanted to "make it right" and essentially acknowledging the crimes she has been accused of.

On these facts, it is possible that the woman could have been charged in federal court with wire fraud, as it appears that she is accused of using her employer's credit cards.

Wire fraud is an offense that is typically added on to an underlying charge such as theft, and can ultimately take the case from state to federal court. However, wire fraud can only be added on in certain circumstances, most commonly if the crime was committed electronically such as over credit card lines or over the Internet.

Source: WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, "DA: Office Manager Steals $1 Million, Pays Her Bills," March 16, 2011

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