(DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE RELEASE) - Memphis, TN – A federal grand jury returned a 39-count indictment against a former law firm office manager. Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the indictment today.
The indictment alleges 38 counts of wire fraud, and one count of interstate transportation of monies stolen or taken by fraud. Misty West, 40, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, was employed as the office manager, bookkeeper and paralegal at the Fowler Law Firm, located on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue in Memphis. Between August 2011 and July 2016, West engaged in a scheme to defraud the law firm and its owner, Charles Wesley Fowler, of more than $400,000.
In some instances, West presented blank checks drawn against the firm’s Suntrust Bank account and asked Fowler to sign the checks telling him she needed to pay the firm’s bills. Fowler signed the checks in blank and West completed the payee information and the amounts. The indictment alleges that West routinely made some of the checks payable to herself and deposited them to her Suntrust account and used the funds to pay her personal bills and expenses. West fraudulently obtained approximately $308,000 in this manner.
The indictment alleges that West also fraudulently obtained a debit card associated with a Suntrust account styled “Charles Wesley Fowler, d/b/a, the Candy Factory.” The Candy Factory was the name of a group of office suites owned by Fowler and which were leased to other individuals and businesses. After obtaining the debit card, the indictment alleges that West used the card to make ATM withdrawals without Fowler’s knowledge. West fraudulently obtained approximately $90,000 in this manner.
According to the indictment, West used the internet to transfer funds from the law firm’s account to pay her personal cell phone bill without Fowler’s knowledge or authorization. West fraudulently obtained approximately $17,000 in this manner.
West faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release on the 38 counts of wire fraud, and 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release on the count charging interstate transportation of monies stolen or taken by fraud.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carroll L. Andre III is prosecuting this case on the government’s behalf.
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