NC woman embezzled $15 million to pay for weddings, jewelry, luxury hotel rooms; support an extravagant lifestyle


TAYLORSVILLE, NC (WBTV) — Court records say an Alexander County woman embezzled more than $15 million from her employer to fund an extravagant lifestyle, including paying for weddings for members of the family, buying expensive jewelry and booking luxury hotels.

Donna Osowitt Steele, 52, of Taylorsville, North Carolina, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, allegedly embezzling more than $15 million from her former employer.

Steele pleaded guilty to a fraudulent embezzlement scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Following the entry of her guilty plea, Steele was released on bail.

Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, then announced a guilty plea.

According to plea documents filed and confessions made by Steele in court, from at least 2013 to January 2020, the defendant executed an extensive scheme to defraud her employer, identified in court documents as Victim Company A, a private subsidiary. American from a foreign company that manufactures carbide products.

The owners of victim company A and its parent company reside abroad.

Court records show Steele embezzled more than $15 million from Victim Company A and used the money to support a business run by her and her family and to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

As Steele admitted in court on Wednesday, she was employed by victim Company A from 1999 until January 2020.

Initially, Steele worked in the shipping department and was promoted over the next 20 years to various positions within the company, including CEO, which she held until her dismissal in January. 2020.

While serving as vice president and then CEO, court documents indicate that Steele used her position to embezzle funds from victimized Company A in a number of ways, including through fraudulent corporate credit card purchases, company checks, Quickbooks transactions and bank transfers.

For example, court documents filed show that Steele used company credit cards to pay $6 million for personal expenses, including making purchases at high-end retail stores, paying for lodging in a luxury hotel and buying tickets to events, to buy expensive jewelry, to pay for family weddings, and to make purchases related to Opulence by Steele, a luxury clothing and boutique company that the defendant has founded in 2013.

In addition to the credit card purchases, Steele admitted to issuing approximately 98 checks totaling more than $2.8 million to Victim Company A’s bank accounts, which Steele deposited into his personal bank account.

Additionally, Steele caused 127 fraudulent and unauthorized wire transfers to be executed as Quickbooks transactions, transferring over $4.7 million from victim Company A’s bank accounts to his personal bank account.

During the same period, court documents indicate that Steele executed at least 117 fraudulent and unauthorized bank transfers, totaling more than $2.2 million, from the bank accounts of victim company A to the personal bank account of the victim. accused, which she then used for her own personal benefit, including to fund a personal real estate fence.

According to the filings, as a result of Steele’s embezzlement, Victim Company A experienced several difficulties, including suppliers withholding products from the company for non-payment or late payment, customers complaining of having been put on credit hold despite paying their bills on time, employees whose company credit card was declined while attempting to use it for legitimate business expenses, employees who did not were not paid on time and/or employees whose insurance was canceled without warning.

Steele admitted that, in an effort to cover up the fraudulent scheme, she limited communications and interactions between the employees and owners of Victim Company A and monitored the communications that were occurring, she convinced the employees that the owners company were to be feared and lied to employees about the true nature of victim company A’s financial difficulties.

A sentencing date has not been set.

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