Great Falls woman admits to fraud
A Great Falls woman who worked as a bookkeeper admitted in federal court on July 13 to defrauding two businesses in a scheme to pay personal bills, according to U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich.
Tara Durnell, 63, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and to mail fraud.
She faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for Dec. 6 and Durnell was released pending further proceedings, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In court documents, the government alleged that between 1997 and 2019, Durnell worked as a bookkeeper for Kronebusch Electric, Inc., a small company in Conrad.
Durnell used her access to pre-signed company checks to make payments to cover personal expenses and then miscoded the payments in the accounting system to make them look like legitimate business expenses, including an unauthorized payment of $5,175 to the TNT Tavern, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
KEI eventually discovered the embezzlement when it sought to sell the company and uncovered several hundred thousand dollars in miscoded transactions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Durnell left KEI and found a job as a bookkeeper with Mitchell’s Crash Repair in Great Falls and in January 2022, used her access to the business’s pre-signed checks and mailed an unauthorized payment of $3,564 to the Pondera County Treasurer to cover a personal debt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Starnes is prosecuting the case. The FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Great Falls Police Department conducted the investigation.