Former Executive Director of Oregon Halfway House Convicted
Laura M. Edwards Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Federal Funds
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 09, 2012|
PORTLAND, OR—Laura M. Edwards, 39, formerly of Portland, Oregon, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty to embezzling money from the Oregon Halfway House between 2008 and 2010. Edwards admitted to using corporate debit cards to embezzle the money, which the halfway house received under a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Ms. Edwards was indicted for embezzling more than $213,000, but is disputing the total amount of money involved and that issue will be resolved at sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for April 16, 2012 before Judge Haggerty.
Edwards was the executive director of the Oregon Halfway House in Portland, Oregon from approximately June 2007 to June 2010. The Oregon Halfway House—now known as the Northwest Regional Re-Entry Center—is a nonprofit organization that provides residential services to federal offenders. Most of the residents at the halfway house have completed a term of incarceration with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and are due to be released back into the community. As the executive director, Edwards acted as the chief executive officer of the halfway house and was responsible to the board of directors for all areas of management and administration. Ms. Edwards concealed the embezzlement from the board.
Edwards was charged with using corporate debit cards issued to her and the assistant director to make unauthorized and fraudulent purchases for her personal benefit. In addition, Edwards established an online retail business called The Adoption Shoppe, which purported to sell clothing and gift items to adoptive families. Edwards used The Adoption Shoppe to embezzle money from the halfway house by using the corporate debit cards to purchase goods from third-party vendors as inventory to sell to consumers through The Adoption Shoppe website for her own personal benefit. In addition, Edwards used both the debit cards to make purported purchases of goods from The Adoption Shoppe for the halfway house when, in fact, the purchases were fictitious and no goods were sold. Instead, Edwards shifted the money from The Adoption Shoppe’s Pay Pal account to her own personal bank account.
“We will aggressively prosecute corrupt executives who steal federal funds,” said United States Attorney Amanda Marshall. “Executives in a position of public trust have a responsibility to the public as well as the organizations they are supposed to serve.”
Edwards faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, she has agreed to pay full restitution to the Oregon Halfway House. Edwards will also be barred from ever again working as an employee of any federal, state, or local government-funded program. The investigation revealed that Edwards had previously embezzled from another BOP-funded halfway house in California using a similar scheme that involved a party planning business she had established. That matter had been settled confidentially, and was never reported to law enforcement or the board of directors of the Oregon Halfway House.
“Edwards abused her position of trust—not only with the taxpayers whose money she stole, but also with the vulnerable clients she served,” said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “People coming out of the federal prison system have significant hurdles to overcome as they re-enter society. Edwards chose to hurt—not help—those clients as they attempted to become productive members of society.”
The case was referred to the United States Attorney’s Office by the board of directors of the Oregon Halfway House after they discovered the embezzlement and conducted an internal investigation. The case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland, Oregon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hannah Horsley is handling the prosecution.