Woman admits stealing $1.3 million
A Greene County woman has pleaded guilty to stealing at least $3.1 million from Cargill Inc. and causing the company to lose $25 million more while she worked as an accounting manager at the Minnesotabased firm’s Port of Albany facility.
Diane Backis, 50, of Athens pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to mail fraud and filing a false income tax return, admitting she defrauded the company which receives, stores and sells grain products, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Backis was responsible for accounting functions related to Cargill’s grain operations in Albany, including creating customer contracts, generating and mailing invoices, and receiving and processing customer payments.
As part of her plea, Backis admitted that she stole hundreds of customer payments sent to Cargill totaling at least $3,115,610 and deposited them into her personal bank accounts.
She also admitted she regularly created fraudulent invoices and mailed them to Cargill’s customers, charging them prices that were substantially less than what Cargill paid to purchase the grain products and directing customers to send payment directly to Backis, thereby bypassing Cargill’s corporate controls.
To hide her activities, Backis made false entries in Cargill’s accounting software to make it appear that customers were paying prices higher than those in her fraudulent invoices, and that customers owed Cargill millions of dollars for delivered grain products, only to reverse those false entries.
As a result, Cargill lost at least $25 million, according to the Justice Department.
Backis also admitted she filed a false 2015 individual income tax return because she declared only $61,208 in total income and omitted more than $450,000 in additional taxable income she received by stealing customer payments intended for Cargill in 2015.
Backis faces up to 20 years in prison, a threeyear term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 when she is sentenced on March 28, 2017, by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino.
As part of her guilty plea, Backis has agreed to pay Cargill at least $3.5 million in restitution, and to forfeit her house in Athens, an investment brokerage account, and her Cargill pension benefits, according to the Justice Department.
Diane Backis leaves the federal courthouse on Monday in Albany.