LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Candi Fluhr, 44, has been sentenced to a total of 94 months’ imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings followed by a 3 year term of supervised release for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, theft from an employee benefit plan, and filing false tax returns, announced United States Attorney Russell Coleman. She was also ordered to pay $838,804 in restitution between four victims.
“This is a clear-cut example of what happens when talented investigators from multiple agencies collaborate with talented prosecutors: thieves do real time in federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman.
“Criminal acts of this nature are detrimental to hardworking Americans and retirees who desperately need and rely upon their retirement benefits,” said Joe Rivers, Department of Labor Benefits Security Administration Regional Director, Cincinnati Regional Office.
“Candi Fluhr not only defrauded her employer in her scheme but defrauded the IRS through the filing of false tax returns resulting in a tax loss of over $150,000.” said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
Fluhr pled guilty to four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of theft from an employee benefit plan, and two counts of filing a false tax return. She was sentenced to 70 months’ imprisonment on 7 of the counts plus 24 months’ consecutive on the aggravated identity theft conviction.
According to a sentencing memo before the Court, Fluhr personally engaged in a nearly two-year scheme to steal over $630,000 from Meyer Plumbing and its employees’ 401(k) plan. Between May 2016 and January 2018, Fluhr stole from Meyer Plumbing by forging signatures, including the signature of C.J., on company checks, creating fake checks with the company’s bank account information, making unauthorized cash withdrawals via company debit and ATM cards, and making unauthorized debit card and eTransactions using company funds for her personal benefit, including paying Court ordered restitution stemming from a prior state conviction. Fluhr also caused fraudulent payments to be made from Meyer Plumbing to Anthem Insurance company in order to obtain and maintain health care coverage for herself and her family, without actually paying any of the required employee premiums (to the tune of over $15,000 in loss to the company). By means of the fraudulent scheme, Fluhr attempted to obtain and obtained funds and services to which she knew she was not entitled totaling approximately $756,703. After her fraud was discovered, Fluhr repaid certain funds to Meyer Plumbing in 2017, in an amount of approximately $26,800, and some charges were reversed by the bank.
In addition to the straight embezzlements from the company, Fluhr also stole funds intended for Meyer Plumbing’s 401(k) Plan, an employee pension benefit plan covered by ERISA, by doctoring company bank account statements to make it appear that funds were withdrawn from the company account and moved to an American Fund account for deposits into the Plan on behalf of employees when, in fact, she left those funds in the company bank account in order to embezzle them for her own benefit. Through this method, Fluhr stole $31,882 of Plan assets intended for employees and submitted false and fraudulent documents to conceal her theft.
After her embezzlement was discovered and she was fired from Meyer Plumbing, Fluhr was hired at JLM Services (“JLM”) in mid-2019. As office manager at JLM, Fluhr had access to the company’s financial information. Using that access, Fluhr quickly began to steal again in much the same manner as she did at Meyer Plumbing. Among other methods, Fluhr embezzled funds from JLM by using the access she had to JLM’s Quickbook account to schedule payroll payments to former and fictitious employees and then rerouting the funds to a Green Dot prepaid debit card she accessed. Fluhr also stole from the company by making personal purchases on a JLM checking account and credit card and the credit card of the owner of JLM without authorization. In total, Fluhr stole $39,749 from JLM through these means before her scheme was detected.
During her time between work at Meyer Plumbing and JLM, Fluhr created and presented multiple fraudulent checks to PLS Check Cashing (“PLS”). Only one of those checks, presented in April 2018, ultimately resulted in a loss to PLS. Fluhr presented check numbered 706190201 to the customer service representative at PLS and negotiated the check for $7,741.84. The check was subsequently found to be fraudulently created by Fluhr and resulted in a loss of $7,741.84 to PLS Check Cashing.
Finally, Fluhr stole from the IRS when she filed false tax returns in 2016 and 2017 without reporting her embezzled funds. On December 6, 2017, Fluhr made and subscribed a joint U.S. Individual Tax Return, for the calendar year 2016, which was verified by a written declaration that it was made under the penalties of perjury. Fluhr did not believe the return to be true and correct as to every material matter in that the return failed to report approximately $210,678 in embezzled income on Form 1040A, reporting instead only $23,664 in income. On February 25, 2018, Fluhr made and subscribed a joint U.S. Individual Tax Return, for the calendar year 2017, which was verified by a written declaration that it was made under the penalties of perjury. Fluhr did not believe the return to be true and correct as to every material matter in that the return failed to report approximately $438,367 in embezzled income on Form 1040A, reporting instead only $23,723 in income. As a result of filing false tax returns for calendar years 2016 and 2017 in which she failed to report a total of $649,044 in embezzled funds she received, Fluhr admitted in the plea agreement that there is a total criminal tax loss of $158,270.
Fluhr has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to the Bureau of Prisons.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chris Tieke and Stephanie Zimdahl. The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and United States Secret Service.