Fifty-six-year-old Sheila Ann Howard entered a guilty plea to the charge of embezzling $143,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 at her sentencing scheduled to take place on Feb. 1.
Between December 2009 and March 2011, Howard used her position at the agency to process 28 fraudulent payment claims in the names of 18 former FEMA employees and one current employee, depositing the payments in four bank accounts she controlled.
According to prosecutors the former employees were not aware of the scheme or of Howard’s use of their personal information.
An investigation began after one of the employees was mailed a tax form indicating she had been paid more than $9,000 by FEMA in 2010 for leave compensation, even though she had left the agency in 2009.
Authorities looked into the payments and found that they had been processed by Howard and deposited into a bank account on which she was the primary account holder. The employee whose name the payments were made under was listed as a secondary account holder, but had no knowledge of the account, prosecutors said.