Tracy Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Health Plan of San Joaquin and Agilent Technologies
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 03, 2014|
SACRAMENTO, CA—Shanika Brewer, 35, of Tracy, pleaded guilty today to embezzling from a health care program and mail fraud relating to a separate embezzlement, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, from 2008 until 2011, Brewer worked in the accounts payable department of a Walnut Creek company at first called Varian Inc., which later was acquired by Agilent Technologies Inc. During her employment, Brewer entered false information into the company’s accounting system that caused other departments to issue checks to vendors who provided personal goods and services to Brewer. Brewer intercepted the checks and took them home to Tracy and mailed them out to pay her student loans, mortgage payments, and home improvements. She also used company funds to pay for her children’s school tuition and to deposit into her personal bank account. Brewer caused the issuance of hundreds of checks for her own benefit totaling over $800,000.
In December 2012, Brewer was hired by Health Plan of San Joaquin, which provides and administers medical benefits and services for employees of San Joaquin County. As the Assistant Controller, Brewer reorganized the accounts payable department. She began manufacturing false invoices for legitimate vendors, as well as fictitious companies. Brewer signed the invoices, forging the names of other Health Plan or San Joaquin County employees. After submitting the invoices, she obtained checks that she took home to use for her own benefit. Brewer caused approximately $100,000 in losses and expenses to the Health Plan.
“This case came to our office due to the great work of the IMPACT Unit of the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Investigative Bureau. When the IMPACT Unit’s investigation of the Health Plan of San Joaquin embezzlement led to evidence that Brewer had embezzled from her prior employer outside of San Joaquin County, the unit began working with the FBI,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “This type of state and federal teamwork is a prime example of how cooperation results in fast, efficient, and appropriate resolution of cases affecting employers throughout California.”
“Brewer abused her position as a trusted employee to craft an elaborate scheme to embezzle over $800,000 over the course of five years. The money was used to support a lifestyle for her and her family that was well beyond her legitimate earnings,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Identifying and investigating financial fraud such as this protects the health of our economy and, in the case of fraud against the health care industry, ensures that our citizens continue receive the best possible health care that they have come to expect.”
San Joaquin County District Attorney James P. Willett advised the county’s employers and businesses “to enforce strong checks and balances over their finances and financial records,” noting that it was only due to the “vigilance of First Premier Bank of South Dakota, which alerted the county that county funds were paying Brewer’s personal credit card bill, that this embezzlement from the San Joaquin Health Plan was detected and stopped in six months. In most cases, once the method of embezzlement is established, the embezzlement goes on for years.”
This case was the product of an investigation by the San Joaquin County District Attorney Investigations Bureau-IMPACT Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.
Brewer is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. on June 26, 2014. Brewer faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or up to two times the embezzled funds. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case was done in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.