How do you bring the federal government into a white–collar crime case? Report the thief's ill–gotten gain to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is brilliant! The IRS hunts down the thief for failing to properly file a tax return and pay income tax on the stolen funds.
Laurie Brezinski, 43, of Schererville, Ind., pled guilty to the charge of, "…embezzlement of more than $5,000 from a corporation engaged in the business of insurance." She was sentenced by a District Judge to 37 months imprisonment; she must pay $659,048.63 in restitution to Ticor Title Insurance Company and serve two years of supervised release. The conditions of the supervised release include the following:
- The defendant shall not seek or maintain employment that includes unsupervised financial or fiduciary–related duties, without the prior approval of the probation officer.
- The defendant shall not participate in any form of gambling or patronize any gambling facilities (she claimed she had a gambling problem which caused her to steal money).
- The defendant shall not incur new credit charges or open additional lines of credit without the approval of the probation officer unless the defendant is in compliance with the installment payment schedule.
- The defendant shall provide the probation officer with access to any requested financial information.
- The defendant shall participate in a mental health treatment program and shall abide by all program requirements and restrictions.
Along with pleading guilty to the theft, she also pled guilty to lying on her income taxes by hiding her criminal profits! She now owes the government about $180,000. This case was the result of an investigation by the IRS and was prosecuted by the Assistant United States Attorney.
Some of the evidence against Brezinski that led to the 37 month sentence was presented in court and showed her continued criminal activity even after being caught. The evidence included the fact she conspired with her next employer (after Ticor) to have her overtime earnings paid to her husband in order to avoid garnishment, since Ticor won a monetary judgment against her in a separate previous civil case.
Other evidence showed that while employed at Ticor not only did she write checks to herself, she schemed to double her money during a refinance of her home. She took out an equity loan for $57,000, cashed the loan proceeds check and then claimed she lost the check.
Brezinski covered her tracks by making it appear in the system the first check had been cancelled, so the settlement agent wrote her a second check, which she also cashed.
At the sentencing her former boss told the judge, "As bad as the theft was, it was her breach of trust that rocks us even more." The judge responded by saying, "Ms. Brezinski is a thief, pure and simple," adding that, "…white–collar crimes are no better than any other crime."
MORAL OF THE STORY
The Company will prosecute theft to the fullest extent of the law. To make sure the stolen funds are eventually fully repaid and Brezinski never works for our Companies in the title industry again the Company took the following steps:
- Terminated the employee
- Reported her to the local authorities
- Reported her criminal actions to the IRS
- Prosecuted her in civil court to win a judgment lien to collect full restitution
Thirteen Company representatives attended the sentencing. During the sentencing the manager of the Ticor operation testified to the Company's financial losses. The operation was forced to lay off and furlough some employees, and cut the wages of others to make up for the loss the operation endured having to replace the stolen funds.