Bookkeeper stole $1M from SC business: feds

Otto Eovaldi


Karen Rhett was the bookkeeper at a South Carolina serious estate agency for the far better component of 25 several years, according to federal courtroom documents.

She was also embezzling from it, prosecutors reported.

A federal decide sentenced the 59-year-previous to 3 decades in jail on Monday, April 4, just after she pleaded guilty to felony prices past 12 months. She was also requested to expend a few many years on supervised launch and shell out restitution.

Rhett’s protection attorney did not right away respond to McClatchy News’ ask for for remark on April 6. But he claimed in court filings that she took whole accountability for the theft right after the FBI showed up at her residence in Mount Pleasant, just outside the house of Charleston, in 2020.

“Painfully, and with deep sorrow, she admits that she took gain of her placement of rely on as a bookkeeper,” reported George Rutledge DuRant, who represented Rhett. “She admits that her theft was enduring and commenced very long back with a rather little sum of dollars. It escalated with time. The much more she stole, the harder it grew to become to end.”

In accordance to court documents, Rhett worked for Simmons Realty Company, a true estate agency operate by David and Elizabeth Simmons.

“It took a few extended yrs of monotonous investigative work by the household and a forensic accountant (former IRS Distinctive Agent) to uncover this complex and sophisticated fraudulent plan,” Bart Daniel, who represented the Simmons, informed McClatchy Information in a assertion. “The Simmons Family members is relieved that justice has finally been served.”

Prosecutors explained Rhett oversaw the company’s accounting and business data and was “in a place of trust” when she allegedly commenced siphoning off funds.

She is accused of transferring funds to herself, normally relocating the money involving other enterprise entities prior to it at some point landed in her account. Rhett also created up business invoices for bogus expenditures and wrote checks to herself in advance of recording the payments as legit, the govt mentioned.

The Simmons inevitably fired her, and FBI agents frequented Rhett at household in July 2020, court documents state.

In accordance to her lawyer, Rhett confessed to the embezzlement the following thirty day period and started cooperating with federal investigators.

“It need to be comprehended that Karen built the determination to confess solely on her very own and quickly, in just a single week of the F.B.I. knocking upon the door of her dwelling,” her attorney said.

Rhett offered the 4,000-square-foot home she shared with her partner and daughter for $982,000 in December 2020, according to true estate listings. Her attorney reported she wrote a test for restitution totaling $640,633 and submitted it to the court in January 2021.

Rhett was charged by criminal information and facts and pleaded guilty to rates of wire fraud and producing untrue statements, court docket files demonstrate. Her attorney explained she was fired from her new occupation at a holistic diet retail outlet when news of the responsible plea broke in April 2021.

Rhett subsequently started out a corporation, Cupcake Bouquets by Karen, by which she bakes and sells “delicious and inventive, generally floral in design and style, cupcakes,” her law firm mentioned.

From August 2021 to February 2022, he mentioned, she has sold $3,648 value of cupcakes.

“Karen is confident that Cupcake Bouquets by Karen, LLC would manage her the indicates by which she can make significant payments towards full restitution,” her legal professional explained in sentencing documents. “In terms of getting on new orders and creating this business as it stands now, Karen has been cautious not to take on way too many new orders or to expand far too speedily as her imminent future is, at finest, unsure.”

Rhett’s law firm had asked the judge to sentence her to a period of household confinement, pointing in part to her struggles with depression due to the fact the prices came to gentle and a recent analysis of Fibromyalgia.

He also reported it is important for Rhett to be home with her 21-calendar year-old daughter, who has reportedly struggled with her possess mental overall health soon after a short-lived career as a singer-songwriter. In accordance to sentencing documents, her daughter formerly sang at “various east coast university gymnasiums and general performance halls with a message against bullying” as a teen.

Rhett submitted 6 letters of help penned by her therapist and various family members users also contacting for leniency.

“Karen has endured the consequences of a self-imposed sentence, shame and guilt prior to her friends and household and the entire local community,” her law firm claimed. “She has endured the reduction of nearly her every possession and she has endured the ongoing agony of darkish melancholy. She has been punished severely now.”

At sentencing, the choose proposed Rhett serve her jail sentence at FPC Alderson in West Virginia so that she can receive health care treatment method. When she is introduced, the judge barred her from acquiring any speak to with the victims.

The amount of restitution she owes is detailed as “TBD” in the court docket docket.

This story was originally revealed April 6, 2022 6:33 PM.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer masking breaking and genuine-time information across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism diploma from the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and formerly worked as a lawful reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.


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