At one point during the housing recession, Paula Rae Donnell, the controller for Ultimate New Home Sales & Marketing, paid herself bonuses on 100 home closings in a single month.

Unfortunately, UNHS closed escrow on only 27 homes that month, prosecutors with the Orange County, Calif., District Attorney’s Office said in announcing Donnell’s conviction for embezzling more than $370,000 from her employer.

Donnell was hired in the summer of 2002 to maintain the company’s accounting records, write payroll checks for employees, and handle employee benefits and insurance, earning a base salary and a closing bonus for each home that closed escrow.

From 2004 to 2010, Donnell stole from her employer by creating false entries in the company’s check ledger, paying herself commissions as a sales agent, and paying herself closing bonuses that exceeded actual home sales closings, prosecutors said.

The scheme apparently began to unravel in 2007, when Donnell started paying herself as an independent contractor with no taxes withheld. In March 2010, she claimed that she had been laid off and filed for unemployment benefits, even though she continued to receive money from UNHS.

Prosecutors said Donnell’s scheme doubled her income, but that she failed to report a majority of the embezzled funds on her state personal income tax returns from 2005 to 2009. She faces up to 13 years in state prison when she’s sentenced April 18. Source:

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