Modestan pleads guilty in $1.6M theft

Up to 20 years possible for woman who stole from employer

June 15, 2009 

Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen.

UNKNOWN — Stanislaus County Sheriff

FRESNO -- A woman who authorities say stole $1.6 million from her employer to pay Victoria's Secret bills, take fancy trips and buy real estate and cars pleaded guilty Monday, federal prosecutors announced.

Lisa Shae Allen, 38, of Modesto pleaded guilty to 15 counts of mail fraud against G. Hedgecock Inc., a Modesto paving and grading company. She worked there six years.

Allen faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled Aug. 31.

Authorities say Allen, who was controller at Hedgecock from 2001 to 2007, forged her boss's signature on checks, then used the money to pay personal bills.

As part of the plea agreement, Allen must pay back the money she stole.

Allen's attorney, Paul Puri, said in an e-mail Monday that his client "deeply regrets" her wrongdoing.

Allen's theft was partly fueled by an addiction to methamphetamine, Puri said. Allen didn't spend the stolen money on drugs, he said, but her drug use probably contributed to the poor judgment that led to her theft.

"The funds were well traced to major expenditures made wide out in the open," Puri said. "Her conduct was not very careful, not smart and clearly indicates the mind of a user."

Allen was hired at Hedgecock in December 2001, according to court documents. Authorities say she started stealing from her employer a month later. As controller, Allen had the power to write checks from Hedgecock's accounts, but not sign them. Allen drafted checks made out to herself or businesses she owed money to, such as the lingerie store, American Express and Macy's, according to the plea agreement filed with the court. Allen then forged her boss's signature on the checks.

Allen also forged checks to a fictional company called P&L Communications, according to court documents.

Allen did not work alone in her scheme, said U.S. Attorney's office spokeswoman Lauren Horwood. Prosecutors did not identify who else may have been involved in the theft.

Allen's bosses uncovered the embezzlement in March 2007, when Allen refused to provide tax information after repeated requests. Allen was fired in March 2007 and arrested by local authorities a month later.

Allen is in custody at the Fresno County Jail.

Hedgecock, on Nathan Avenue in Modesto, employs 20 people, according to the business research firm Manta.com. Hedgecock's annual sales are estimated at $2.8 million. Company leaders could not be reached for comment Monday.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378.

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