The 34 year-old owner of a financial services company pleaded guilty last week in Santa Ana, California district court to federal charges relating to the embezzlement of $1.5 million of client funds.
The woman, Elizabeth J. Mulder, from San Juan Capistrano, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, as well as to filing a false income tax return that failed to disclose the funds to the IRS.
Wire fraud is a serious federal crime that involves the purposeful deception for financial gain, and involves the use of telecommunications equipment, including wire, TV and radio.
Federal prosecutors stated that the woman, whose company offered tax, accounting and bookkeeping services, got her small business clients to trust her with their financial accounts.
In most of the cases, the woman was able to persuade clients to write checks to ‘Income Tax Payments’ with promises that the payments were being used to satisfy IRS tax obligations, which would be forwarded to the proper federal or state tax agency.
Mulder then put that money into a bank account that she opened named Income Tax Payments. She then used the money for her own purposes.
She also created several false personas that made it look like she was using her clients’ money to pay expenses related to their businesses. In reality, she was using the money in her own bank account to fund a lavish lifestyle, such as paying for a Laguna Beach rental property, plastic surgery and vacations.
She also misled clients when she said that she was an accountant with a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University. She actually was employed by a soil and fertilizer company, and had only taken community college accounting courses. Mulder also told her clients that the name of her company was Mulder Financial Consulting.
Overall, the fraud resulted in her stealing at least $1.5 million from several businesses based in Orange County, California. Some of the businesses included JAC Wines in San Clemente, Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates in San Juan Capistrano and Andra Builders.
Accused of Ripping Off Close Friends
A Laguna Beach, California police detective named Jordan Mirakian was in charge of the one year long police investigation. He stated that all of the victims were young entrepreneurial women like her, and have young children. She was able to earn their trust because she also is a young woman with children. The detective stated that she had parties and dinners for her clients, and even went to a wedding in Italy with the owner of one of the companies.
Mirakian told the media that he was upset about the case because not only did she steal, but she did it after earning their trust and breaking bread with them, even at holidays, including Thanksgiving.
The investigation started in January 2016 when the owner of JAC Wines called the police, telling them that he suspected Mulder had stolen $200,000 from him.
During a search of her home, police found an app on her iPhone that allowed her to mask her voice. Police and the business owners think that she was using the app to call the victims to pretend to be others so she could cover her misdeeds.
Misrepresented Herself as Other Businesses To Cover Misdeeds
One of the owners of the Toni & Guy salon, Lauren Scaccia, told the police that she was upset when she got a notice from her insurance company that her workers’ comp insurance premium in 2015 was overdue.
She discussed it with Mulder, who was her accountant at that time. Mulder told her that the situation was being handled. A few days later, the business owner got a call from a woman who said she was from the firm that handled her workers’ comp insurance. The woman claimed that the account was paid in full.
However, the woman said that the person on the phone told her, ‘you’re totally fine.’ This phrase was one that Mulder often used to calm her down. The business owner was suspicious and called back that phone number, which then went to the insurance company that handled that workers’ comp account. She thinks that Mulder stole that money.
A few weeks later, Scaccia got a call from Mulder’s husband. He told her that he suspected his wife was a fraud. Scaccia said that Mulder seemed to target close friends and family who trusted her and would not question her. She was even in Scaccia’s wedding and bridal shower.
Mulder faces sentencing on October 16 and can receive up to 23 years in prison and a fine of $350,000. The exact level of fine and maximum prison sentence always depends upon any aggravating factors that are involved, as well as the past record of the accused.
Why Wire Fraud Is Usually a Federal Charge
Regarding the woman’s alleged wire fraud charge, this is prosecuted at the federal level because wire fraud almost always has an element that involves the crossing of state lines. It is for that reason that almost all wire fraud causes are handled by federal courts.
Current wire fraud laws at the federal level are written based upon the sort of fraud that is being allegedly committed, and what kind of potential social ill is being caused. The sentence received in a federal crime case depends upon federal sentencing guidelines.
Also of importance is the type of institution that was being allegedly defrauded. Current federal statutes have identified several categories of wire fraud:
- Wire fraud of the general variety that utilizes TV, radio or wire to engage in fraud across state lines or in foreign commerce, but without any additional aggravating factors.
- A certain type of wire fraud that is defined by any acts that are made related to any type of declared disaster event.
- Another category of wire fraud that focuses upon fraud committed against any type of financial organization.
Tax evasion is another federal charge that the woman in this case is facing, and it also carries very serious penalties. For tax evasion to be prosecuted according to federal law, it has to be shown to have been intentional and not accidental. The fact that Mulder had more than $1.5 million in alleged stolen funds that were not reported to the IRS as income, it is highly likely that she will serve time for tax evasion as well.
For the feds to prove tax evasion, they must take several steps:
- Must show that there is an unpaid tax liability
- Must show that affirmative action was taken to avoid paying the taxes due
- Must prove that the defendant had a purposeful intent to avoid paying taxes on the money that was not reported to the tax authority
The burden to prove both wire fraud and tax evasion is beyond a reasonable doubt. No one can be convicted for either federal crime unless this high standard is met.
Contact a Federal Charges Defense Attorney Now
Those who face federal charges should understand that the massive financial resources of the US government means that the chances of being both indicted and found guilty are high. It is important to be represented by an experienced federal crime defense attorney.