A fairly new business in 2002, Dalton-based Risk Innovations LLC had only recently been able to afford or need someone to manage its books.
They hired now 63-year-old Carolyn Lynn Cherry as an accountant, prosecutors said, and from May 2003 to August 2009, she allegedly forged her supervisor’s signature on company checks and used them to pay personal credit card bills, which totaled more than $1 million.
By adjusting the books and creating fictional payees, prosecutors said, Cherry allegedly began creating a pool of money to pay off costly credit card bills.
Trips to Disney resorts, New York, Las Vegas and Florida over six years were paid for with embezzled funds, as well as lavish spending excursions and sprees on television shopping networks.
“Because she was the company’s first and only bookkeeper they didn’t know any different and didn’t detect the fraud until 2009,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Traynor said in court.
On Thursday, Cherry pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Rome to one count of mail fraud, and the government dropped the other 20-plus counts of mail and bank fraud as part of the plea agreement.
The mail fraud charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, although the government has recommended a relatively light sentence because of her plea and cooperation.
After she was confronted, Cherry began cooperating with authorities, Traynor said, and presented her credit card statements and a meticulously kept log of the scheme.
Also, Judge Robert L. Vining told Cherry she will be required to pay restitution to the company.
Cherry declined comment through her attorney, and representatives of Risk Innovations also declined to comment.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27 at 10 a.m.