ALBANY – An Athens woman was sentenced in Albany federal court on Tuesday to five years in prison for stealing $3.1 million from her employer, Cargill, Inc., and causing over $25,000 in additional losses.
Diane Backis, 51, pled guilty on November 28, 2016 to charges of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return.
She was responsible for accounting functions for Gargill’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 defrauded Cargill while working in the company’s Port of Albany facility, which receives, stores, and sells gain products. She admitted that she stole hundreds of customer payments sent to Cargill totaling at least $3.1 million and deposited them into her own bank accounts. She also regularly created fraudulent invoices and mailed them to Cargill’s customers. Those invoices charged Cargill’s customers prices substantially less than what Cargill paid to acquire the grain products, causing the company significant financial losses. Cargill is an agricultural services conglomerate based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
The fraudulent invoices also directed Cargill’s customers to send payment directly to Backis, thereby bypassing Cargill’s corporate controls.
To hide her activities, Backis made false entries into 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. Backis
then later reversed those false entries. As a result, Cargill lost at
least $25 million.
Backis also admitted that she filed a false 2015 individual income tax return because she declared only $61,208 in total income and omitted over $450,000 in additional taxable income she received by stealing customer payments intended for Cargill in 2015.
In addition to the prison time, Backis must serve two years of supervised release and pay $3.5 million in restitution to Cargill.
In sentencing her, US District Judge Mae D’Agostino described the scheme as “insidious,” and Backis’ behavior as both “greedy” and “piggish.”