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Great Falls Bookkeeper Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding Two Businesses of Approximately $500,000

Avatar By Press Release Dec15,2023

Press release By U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana December 11, 2023

Great Falls, Mont – A Great Falls woman who admitted to defrauding two businesses of approximately $500,000 while working as a bookkeeper to pay her personal expenses was sentenced today to 25 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Tara Durnell, 63, pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and to mail fraud.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. The court also ordered $492,309 in total restitution. Durnell was remanded into custody.

In court documents, the government alleged that beginning in at least 1997, Durnell embezzled from her employer, Kronebusch Electric, Inc., (KEI) a small company in Conrad, where she worked as a bookkeeper, to fund her personal lifestyle. Durnell used her access to pre-signed company checks and company bank accounts to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars toward personal credit card debt, personal car loan payments and debts belonging to family members. To conceal her scheme, Durnell used her access to the company’s accounting software to hide her illicit transactions and make them appear like legitimate businesses expenses. In total, Durnell embezzled almost $500,000 from KEI.

Durnell left employment with KEI when the scheme was discovered and found work as a bookkeeper with Mitchell’s Crash Repair in Great Falls. In January 2022, Durnell again used her access to the business’s pre-signed checks and bank accounts and to pay tens of thousands of dollars toward personal expenses. Durnell embezzled approximately $15,491 from Mitchell’s Crash Repair.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Starnes prosecuted the case.  The FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Great Falls Police Department conducted the investigation.

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