Federal prosecutors will seek a 15-month prison sentence for a Bowling Green woman accused of defrauding HeathCo while she worked there as a sales administrator.
Annette Thomas pleaded guilty this year to eight counts of mail fraud and two counts of false tax returns.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Chief Judge Greg Stivers rescheduled Thomas’ sentencing, originally set for next week, for July 31 after Thomas’ attorney, federal public defender Laura Wyrosdick, said in a motion filed Monday that additional time was needed to prepare for the sentencing hearing.
Thomas worked as a sales analyst supervisor with HeathCo, a Bowling Green company that produces lighting products sold at large retailers, when federal prosecutors said she placed nearly $2.7 million in unnecessary advertisements in sports publications, receiving merchandising credits from the publishing companies that she used to travel to sporting events, concerts and resorts.
Federal prosecutors said Thomas used unauthorized electronic signatures of three supervisors to buy the ads, carried out the scheme from 2005 to 2012, concealed the receipt of merchandising credits from HeathCo management and failed to report the credits as income on her tax returns.
A sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Judd details trips to resorts in Florida and Las Vegas, gift cards used at multiple retail outlets, vacation passes to Walt Disney World, tickets to concert performances by Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Kid Rock and Guns N’ Roses and tickets to sporting events that included Nashville Predators hockey, Detroit Tigers baseball, the SEC basketball tournament, races at Bristol Motor Speedway and University of Michigan athletics, all illegally obtained through merchandising credits.
Witnesses who spoke with investigators said they had no knowledge of any merchandising credits program at HeathCo, and some who traveled with Thomas on the trips reimbursed her for flights and hotel rooms, saying they were told that Thomas received tickets and other perks through a relative’s business.
Judd said in the filing that three witnesses plan to testify against Thomas at the sentencing hearing
“Thomas was an opportunist that not only stole from her company, she also enriched herself by charging and lying about the source of benefits she was sharing with her friends and co-workers,” Judd said in the filing.
Along with imprisonment, federal prosecutors are requesting that Thomas pay $186,000 in restitution to HeathCo.
She is accused of claiming education tax credits on four years of tax returns, even though HeathCo reimbursed her for the majority of her costs to take classes at Western Kentucky University.
Court records said Thomas admitted to attorneys retained by HeathCo in 2012 that she forged the names of her supervisors to authorize payment for the ads and that she acted alone.
On the morning of the interview with the attorneys, Thomas used merchandising credits to pay for tickets to the NCAA Tournament. She was fired at the end of the interview and surrendered tickets to an upcoming Van Halen concert, according to a filing from Judd.
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