Date: June 25, 2020
Indianapolis – Kenya Dake of Indianapolis, was sentenced in federal court for perpetrating a 4 ½-year scheme to steal nearly $540,000 from her employer, an Indianapolis-based small business. Dake was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.
Dake's now-former employer is a local consulting firm that, among other things, helps its clients secure federal grants. Dake, who worked at the company since 2012, was the company's controller and office manager and made an annual salary of approximately $80,000.
Late last year, federal agents uncovered Dake's embezzlement scheme and moved to disrupt it as it was happening. The coordinated investigation by four federal law enforcement agencies—Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Marshal's Service—led to search and seizure warrants at Dake's residence and ultimately federal fraud and money laundering charges.
The investigation revealed that Dake had been stealing from her employer since at least 2015. As Dake admitted in her guilty plea, she funneled company funds to herself by connecting her personal bank accounts to fictitious "vendors" she created in the company's bookkeeping system. She also made personal purchases on Amazon with company money. The amounts Dake stole were relatively small at first, a few hundred dollars every couple of months. By mid-2017, they had picked up significantly, averaging nearly $20,000 per month until she was caught in 2019. In all, through hundreds of transactions, she stole nearly $540,000, which she concealed by recording the personal purchases and "vendor" payments in the company's financial ledger as legitimate company expenses.
Dake spent the stolen money on routine living expenses (e.g., meals, groceries, and clothing), significant cash withdrawals, several pieces of diamond and platinum jewelry, a new 2019 Honda SUV, and multiple trips to Aruba.
Federal agents were able to seize the SUV, much of the jewelry, and over $50,000 from two different bank accounts.
"This sentencing reinforces that fraud on small businesses is something we take seriously," stated Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI Chicago Field Office. "IRS-Criminal Investigation is uniquely positioned to investigate financial fraud schemes such as this. We are proud to be able to contribute to this investigation in cooperation with our law enforcement partners."
"Fraud on a small business often impacts much more than the bottom line," said United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler. "It can cost people good jobs and breed distrust, especially when perpetrated by a trusted employee. Those who exploit their positions for personal financial gain must be, and will be, held accountable."
"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service, investigates any fraud in which the U.S. Mail is used, even if the fraud began another way; the use of the mail is what makes it mail fraud" said Felicia George, Acting Inspector in Charge. "In an effort to uphold the nation's first consumer protection law, Postal Inspectors enforce the mail fraud statute to the fullest extent possible against those seeking to separate innocent customers and businesses from their money through illegal or nefarious means."
"Through her embezzlement, Ms. Dake took advantage of her position and her employer's trust for her own personal criminal gain. Theft such as this is unacceptable and today's sentence clearly shows that cooking the books never pays off in the long run," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert "Alex" Middleton, FBI Indianapolis. "The FBI is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who choose to engage in illegal activity and bring these corrupt individuals to justice."
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Linder, who prosecuted the case for the government, Dake will serve 37 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and the seized property will be forfeited and Dake must repay all of the money she stole.