Woman gets sentenced to 2 years for federal charges

The Great Recession put a strain on most Marylanders’ budgets, but it appears that one couple may have been living in luxury thanks to alleged major fraud activities that effectively stole money from the U.S. government. News reports show that an area woman pleaded guilty to federal charges for fraud and was sentenced in early December. Even though she had reportedly committed serious crimes by funneling extra contracting work to her husband’s business, she will only serve a two-year stint in prison in connection with the illegal activities. The woman’s husband was sentenced to an 18-month term.

The woman, age 64, was implicated in the scheme after a news report revealed her fraudulent use of contracting money. She had reportedly funneled some $53 million in federal contracts to her husband’s company, the Sterling Royale Group. The pair had recovered $39 million in payments before the unethical activities were uncovered. The pair reportedly purchased expensive cars, yachts and hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry.

Courtroom reports show that the woman argued that she thought the procurement procedures were legal. A judge in the case said he thought the woman’s arguments were invalid, as it appeared that she definitely knew what she was doing when she diverted the funds. The woman was accused of improperly drafting documents for embassy work and pressuring State Department decision-makers to sign documents without carefully reading them. Still, the judge only sentenced her to a two-year term, as opposed to the federal sentencing guidelines’ minimum of five years, 10 months.

Even those facing federal charges for serious financial missteps may be able to avoid significant jail time, depending on the approach taken by the criminal defense attorney. In this case, the woman was sentenced to less than half the recommended sentence, largely because defense attorneys argued that the contractors still finished the work for which they were commissioned, even though they fraudulently obtained the contracts.

Source:  www.washingtonpost.com, “Former State Department worker, husband sentenced for contracting fraud” Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 06, 2013