Former bookkeeper pleads guilty to embezzling $1M from Charleston real estate company

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A former bookkeeper pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1,000,000 from a Charleston real estate company.

Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett Dehart announced on Thursday that Karen Rhett, 58, pleaded guilty to federal charges involving the embezzlement of over $1,000,000 from Simmons Realty Company and its owners while serving as the company’s bookkeeper.

According to Dehart, evidence presented in court revealed that from the mid-1990s, Rhett managed and controlled the finances, payroll, and tax preparation for Simmons Realty and all related entities.

During that time, they say she engaged in a complex embezzlement scheme – starting by falsifying the business ledgers to move money to her personal accounts and evolving into augmenting her salary, stealing directly from other employee’s paychecks, and stealing from the other Simmons Realty related entities.

Investigators say they recovered detailed spreadsheets Rhett maintained regarding the amount of money she was stealing, where the money came from, and how she falsified the business ledgers.

“In addition to the money stolen with the embezzlement scheme, evidence presented showed that Rhett never reported the income on her taxes and failed to pay more than $380,000 in taxes during the course of the scheme,” said Dehart.

Rhett faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison on the charges and potential financial penalties. Rhett also agreed to forfeit over $640,000 with her guilty plea.

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