Former Executive Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Shipping Company
HOUSTON—Kathleen Creel, a former employee of Wilhelmsen Ships Service Inc., has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of wire fraud in connection with defrauding her company, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
As part of her guilty plea, Creel, 43, admitted that from June 2003 through August 2009, she 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. Creel also admitted she had access to Wilhelmsen bank accounts and the ability to cause Wilhelmsen to make payments to vendors.
Creel admitted that from at least June 2003 through approximately August 2009, she defrauded Wilhelmsen by embezzling money from the company’s bank accounts. Creel used Wilhelmsen’s accounting system to cause a series of wire transfers from the company’s bank accounts into her own. Specifically, Creel carried out the scheme by creating false invoices from two Wilhelmsen vendors. Creel 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.
U.S. District Judge Grey Miller, who accepted the guilty plea, has set sentencing for April 17, 2015. At that time, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss on each count, along with forfeiture allegations of more than $4 million.
She was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pearson.