A woman has been sentenced to 28 months in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after embezzling $150,000 from a high-end Seattle mountain bike company.
Joan Trower, 51, was sentenced on November 19 after pleading guilty in August 2021. Trower worked for the company from July 2015 until May 2018 when the embezzlement was discovered and her contract terminated.
An FBI investigation found that Trower used a variety of schemes to steal from company accounts including creating checks using the company software system, claiming expenses and compensation she did not earn, and making transfers from company accounts to accounts she controlled.
One example that was highlighted by the Department of Justice was that while most employees received at most three checks per month (two for salary and one for expenses), Trower wrote as many as thirteen checks to herself in one month, falsely claiming the funds were to reimburse her for an outside tax accounting firm she claimed to have hired. At one point, Trower transferred more than $26,000 to her account in the span of just a few months in 2018. Trower and her boyfriend used the money to, among other things, gamble at area casinos.
Alongside the wire fraud, Trower was also charged for aggravated identity theft after she forged the signature of company executives on fraudulent checks and submitted false invoices.
Assistant United States Attorney William Dreher described Trower’s scheme as “elaborate, sophisticated, and longstanding". He said, "She created fake business entities and fake bank accounts for those entities in order to conceal the nature of her transfers of funds from the company. Ms. Trower even went so far as to create at least one alter ego email account: a fake email account that she would correspond with, apparently in an attempt to justify certain expenses or accounting maneuvers."
At the sentencing hearing, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said that it is part of the Court’s “job to protect the community, especially small businesses such as the victim in this case.”
Trower is obligated to pay $168,597 in restitution to the mountain bike company. The bike company is not named in the case but Transition and Kona have both previously confirmed Trower was not employed by them