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U.S. Department of Labor

10/26/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/26/2020 13:49

Federal Court Sentences Georgia Woman to Prison, Orders $1,034,793 In Restitution after U.S. Department of Labor Fraud Investigation

ATLANTA, GA - After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has sentenced Carrie N. Harris - former Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Plan Administrator for the Southern Pan Services Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) - after she made more than $1 million in fraudulent withdrawals from the company's bank accounts to pay charges to Harris' and her husband's personal and business credit cards.

The court sentenced her to 65 months in prison and 36 months and 12 months of supervised release, to be served concurrently, and ordered her to pay $1,034,793 in restitution. The action follows an EBSA investigation and Harris' January 2020 guilty plea to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

EBSA found that between 2007 and August 2013 Harris used her position as the ESOP's plan administrator to defraud Southern Pan Services by making unauthorized disbursements from the company's bank accounts. In addition EBSA determined that, between December 2008 and June 2013, Harris issued more than 100 company checks totaling more than $1 million to pay personal expenses. Harris also falsified entries on the company's check register and ledger to disguise the checks and hide the payees.

EBSA found that Harris' actions impacted the value of Southern Pan Services' stock and the financial viability of the ESOP and the company, which shut down in 2015.

'Theft of funds from an employee stock ownership plan-owned company jeopardizes the retirement benefits of American workers,' said Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Isabel Culver, in Atlanta, Georgia. 'This case reaffirms the U.S. Department of Labor's commitment to protect workers' benefits by identifying criminal activity and aggressively holding criminals accountable for their actions and responsible for restoring losses to the plan.'

EBSA's Atlanta regional office worked with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General and the FBI to investigate this case.

Employers and workers with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans should contact EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272. More information is available.

EBSA's mission is to assure the security of the retirement, health and other workplace related benefits of America's workers and their families. EBSA accomplishes this mission by developing effective regulations; assisting and educating workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers; and vigorously enforcing the law.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.