Wo­man ad­mits steal­ing $1.3 mil­lion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

MIKE GROLL — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Diane Backis leaves the fed­eral court­house on Mon­day in Al­bany.

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