Friday, August 15, 2014

Major Ships Agency and Maritime Logistics Company Allegedly Defrauded of $4 million by Executive

Charges Against ex Senior Employee of Shipping Group for On Going Fraud
Shipping News Feature

US – This month Kathleen Creel, a former employee of Wilhelmsen Ships Service, part of the Scandinavian headquartered WW group with shipping interests ranging from RoRo car carriers to maritime logistics, has been arrested and charged with defrauding her company and causing a loss of more than $4.1 million. Charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, based on the electronic transfers into her bank account, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each count as well as a $250,000 maximum fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, if she is found guilty of defrauding the international shipping company.

The indictment, returned under seal April 9, 2014, was unsealed last week upon her arrest by federal authorities in New York. She made her initial appearance there and is set to appear in Houston, Texas in the near future.

As outlined in the indictment, 43 year-old Creel, formerly of Houston, was employed by Wilhelmsen and a predecessor company at its Pasadena headquarters as the company’s Customs and Tax Manager. In this role, Creel had access to sensitive financial information, including billing records and bank account information for Wilhelmsen vendors. She also allegedly had access to Wilhelmsen bank accounts and the ability to cause Wilhelmsen to make payments to vendors.

The charges allege that from at least June 2003 through approximately August 2009, Creel defrauded Wilhelmsen by embezzling more than $4.1 million from the company’s bank accounts. Creel allegedly used Wilhelmsen’s accounting system to cause a series of wire transfers from the company’s bank accounts into her own.

The indictment specifically alleges that Creel carried out the scheme by creating false invoices from two Wilhelmsen vendors, identified as Vendor A and Vendor B. Creel allegedly entered the false invoices into Wilhelmsen’s accounting system and either approved or caused them to be approved for payment. These actions then caused interstate wire transfers from Wilhelmsen’s New York based bank account into Creel’s bank account, according to the indictment.

Creel allegedly originally carried out the scheme from 2003 to 2005 by causing the company to issue physical cheques to a vendor which she then arranged to be mailed to a Post Office box in La Porte, Texas which she controlled. The indictment alleges Creel collected these cheques and deposited them into her bank account.