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Missouri woman enters guilty plea in $700K fraud, money laundering scheme

Christen Schulte, pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges related to a scheme to defraud her former employer

WASHINGTON, Mo. — A Washington, Missouri, woman entered a guilty plea to several charges related to defrauding her former employer.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Missouri, Christen Diane Schulte pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges related to a scheme to defraud her former employer, several individuals associated with her former employer, the Berger Levee District of Franklin County, and several financial institutions.

Schulte appeared in federal court before United States District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig who accepted the plea and set her sentencing date for Nov. 10.

Schulte was a former bookkeeper and office manager of a farm and a trucking company in New Haven, Missouri, according to court documents.

Between January 2018 and February of this year, court documents said Schulte knowingly and intentionally devised and executed a scheme to defraud, and to obtain money from her former employer and others.

The total loss from the scheme is approximately $727,000. 

Schulte used the companies’ credit cards for her personal expenditures without permission, according to court documents. She also fraudulently got American Express and FirstBank to issue her new credit cards in the names of the companies. She fraudulently charged more than 1,800 transactions totaling more than $532,000 on these credit cards.

She also forged signatures of the owner and several employees of companies, on checks from several different bank accounts, including personal accounts of the employees.  

Other forged checks were drawn from a bank account held by the Berger Levee District of Franklin County, which is a tax-payer funded levee district that is responsible for creating flood control projects in Franklin County. Schulte forged the treasurer’s signature of the Berger Levee District on checks that she made payable to the companies in order to conceal the lost funds related to her credit card scheme, the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Missouri said.   

Schulte used the fraudulently obtained funds for her own personal gain, including purchasing jewelry, a travel trailer, vehicles, and vacation travel.   

"Christen Schulte exploited the position of trust she occupied at a small, family-owned business," said Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn of the FBI St. Louis Division. "The FBI will always strive to bring to justice those who lie and steal on the backs of others who work hard to realize the American dream."

Schulte faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the two wire fraud charges; a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine on the two bank fraud charges; and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of $250,000, or twice the amount laundered, on the money laundering charge. Restitution is also mandatory, officials said.