Utah woman gets 2 years in prison in $1.6M embezzlement case

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — A Utah woman was sentenced to more than two years in a federal prison after she pleaded guilty to fraud in the embezzlement of more than $1.6 million from a meat processing business.

Christine Gillins, 53, pleaded guilty in January to one count of wire fraud after prosecutors accused her of defrauding Lower Family Foods Inc. in Richmond from 2015 to 2018 while she worked for the company, The Herald Journal reported Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Gillins performed 107 separate transactions disguised as double payments to 14 different vendors, collecting more than $1.6 million by sending one payment to the vendor and one to her personal bank account. Prosecutors say Gillins spent the money on vehicles, vacations, sporting events and a home in Mesquite, Nevada.

“The stolen funds took a serious financial toll on Lower and left them with a cash flow problem in 2018,” prosecutors wrote in documents filed in U.S. District Court. They went on to explain that the company didn’t realize the crime at the time and “took on an additional equipment loan of $2.8 million to make ends meet.”

Attorney Nathan Duncan, who is representing Lower Foods, said the criminal case is done but there are still matters pending in a civil case.

“One of the things that was expressed at her sentencing was just the betrayal that Lower Foods felt,” said Duncan. “It’s a family business … they go to great lengths to take care of their employees and to be good members of the community and to support people.”

Gillins was ordered to remand herself to custody no later than June 25. There are no federal prison facilities in Utah, but documents show she will be held on the West Coast to facilitate family visitation. She was also ordered to pay restitution at a minimum rate of $800 a month upon her release.

Gillins declined to be interviewed and told The Herald Journal she wanted privacy and expressed concern for her family. Her federal defense counsel did not respond to a request for comment.