Former Executive Indicted for Defrauding Shipping Company of More Than $4 Million
HOUSTON—Kathleen Creel, a former employee of Wilhelmsen Ships Service Inc., has been charged with defrauding her company and causing a loss of more than $4.1 million, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
The indictment, returned under seal April 9, 2014, was unsealed yesterday upon her arrest by federal authorities in New York. She made her initial appearance there and is set to appear in Houston in the near future.
As outlined in the indictment, Creel, 43, formerly of Houston, was employed by Wilhelmsen and a predecessor company at its Pasadena headquarters as the company’s customs and tax manager. In this role, Creel had access to sensitive financial information, including billing records and bank account information for Wilhelmsen vendors. She also allegedly had access to Wilhelmsen bank accounts and the ability to cause Wilhelmsen to make payments to vendors.
The indictment alleges that from at least June 2003 through approximately August 2009, Creel defrauded Wilhelmsen by embezzling more than $4.1 million from the company’s bank accounts. Creel allegedly used Wilhelmsen’s accounting system to cause a series of wire transfers from the company’s bank accounts into her own.
The indictment specifically alleges that Creel carried out the scheme by creating false invoices from two Wilhelmsen vendors, identified as Vendor A and Vendor B. Creel allegedly entered the false invoices into Wilhelmsen’s accounting system and either approved or caused them to be approved for payment. These actions then caused interstate wire transfers from Wilhelmsen’s New York based bank account into Creel’s bank account, according to the indictment. Creel allegedly carried out the scheme from 2003 to 2005 by causing the company to issue physical checks to a vendor which she then arranged to be mailed to a Post Office box in La Porte, which she controlled. The indictment alleges Creel collected these checks and deposited them into her bank account.
Creel is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, based on the wire transfers into her bank account. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each count as well as a $250,000 maximum fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pearson.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.