Cargill’s chief accountant stole $ 3.1 million from agriculture giant

In one of the region’s largest employee theft cases, a Cargill accountant at the Port of Albany admitted on Monday that she stole more than $ 3.1 million from the in 10 global agriculture giant years.

Diane L. Backis, 50, of Athens, caused losses of at least $ 25 million to Cargill, the largest private company in the United States, according to federal prosecutors in Albany.

Backis pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return, which under federal sentencing guidelines could send him to jail for more than 11 years. She agreed to pay Cargill $ 3.5 million in restitution, give up her home in Greene County, give up an investment brokerage account and her Cargill pension.

She will be sentenced on March 28 by U.S. District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino, who accepted Backis’ guilty plea. Backis has waived any appeal against any sentence of nine years or less.

“Diane deeply regrets her actions and apologizes profusely to her former employer Cargill, colleagues and family,” said Backis lawyer Scott Iseman. “Diane knows she made a terrible mistake and is doing all she can to redeem herself.”

Backis, who claimed to have earned $ 61,208 last year, actually made $ 515,506, according to court documents.

“Ms. Backis stole millions of dollars from her employer as part of a ten-year scheme to get rich so she could live beyond her means,” US Attorney Richard Hartunian said in a statement . “She stole money by diverting customer payments to her personal bank accounts and sold grain products for millions less than her employer paid, causing huge financial losses.”

Cargill, based in Minnetonka, Minn., Uses its location in Albany to receive, store and sell grain products. Backis’ job consisted of creating customer contracts, generating and sending invoices, and receiving and processing customer payments. Backis admitted that between December 2006 and June 2016, she intercepted customer payments destined for Cargill and deposited at least $ 3,115,610 in her personal accounts for personal expenses.

“The defendant was not, and knew she was not, authorized to deposit Cargill customer payments to her personal accounts or to use Cargill customer payments for personal expenses,” the Deputy U.S. Attorney said. Wayne Myers to the judge, reading the details of Backis’ plea deal.

Backis created false invoices, usually on a weekly basis, and mailed them to Cargill customers. False invoices often billed customers below Cargill’s costs, causing huge losses for the company between 2006 and 2016.

Additionally, Backis’ invoices instructed customers to send payments to Cargill in Albany instead of a financial institution, as required.

“As a result of these fraudulent invoices, Cargill customers routinely sent payments to the defendant at the Port of Albany, including by mail,” Myers said. “The defendant diverted some of these payments to her personal accounts.”

Backis admitted to making false entries into the company’s computer system to indicate that customers were paying higher prices than those indicated on the invoices.

To protect his scheme from the eyes of the company, Backis indicated in computer files that “various customers owed Cargill money and then rescinded those entries,” Myers said.

Backis admitted that she misapplied customer payments to separate customer accounts. She intentionally wrote the wrong customer code on a payment and sent it to the company’s personnel office. Backis claimed that a check for $ 73,636.66 sent on August 21, 2015 by a customer should be applied to another Albany customer – and mailed that check to a bank in Pittsburgh. It was in this specific case that Backis pleaded guilty.

Once Myers had finished reading Backis’ long description of the crime, the judge faced Backis.

“Is that what you did and what happened in this case,” asked the judge.

“Yes,” Backis replied.

The accused, who appeared in formal attire, will remain at liberty until her conviction. She was fired earlier this year, officials said.

Pete Stoddart, spokesperson for Cargill, which employs 120 people at its two Albany sites, said that the case is still ongoing, he did not want to discuss it beyond what federal officials said in A press release.

“What I can tell you is that Cargill thoroughly audited its controls and trading systems and confirmed that this was an isolated incident, undertaken by an employee at a single Cargill site,” said declared the spokesperson. “Cargill customers have not been affected by the fraudulent activity.”

FBI Special Agent Andrew Vale, who heads the office’s Albany division, which investigated the case with the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Unit, was more specific.

“Ms. Backis repeatedly victimized her employer,” he said. “This type of fraud is a sinister act that involves not only criminality but also the willingness to cause Cargill Inc. millions of losses.”

[email protected]518-434-2403@RobertGavinTU

Previous How Outsourced Accounting Services are a Win-Win Solution for Businesses and Business Clients
Next 5 strategies to effectively implement the new lease accounting standard