SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced that Laurie Griffen, of Redwood City, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud and credit card fraud. Griffen admitted to stealing approximately $175,000 from MoMo’s Restaurant in San Francisco while she worked there as a bookkeeper from March 2003 to June 2005. These charges are the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service and the San Francisco Police Department.
According to the plea agreement, in her capacity as bookkeeper for MoMo’s, Griffen, 52, had the authority to write checks from the business’s checking account to pay MoMo’s bills. Over the course of two years, she wrote fifty-seven checks totaling approximately $175,000 to pay for personal purchases and for the rent on her Redwood City residence. For instance, she admitted to spending over $12,000 of MoMo’s funds to buy four German bisque collectible dolls.
Ms. Griffen also acknowledged that without the knowledge or consent of the managers and owners of MoMo’s, Ms. Griffen obtained a credit card in the name of the restaurant and one of its owners. She used the credit card to make personal purchases of approximately $44,000, and then wrote checks on MoMo’s business checking account to pay off the balance each month. In order to conceal her thefts and avoid arousing suspicion, Ms. Griffen admitted that she altered the payee entries in the business’s check ledger so that the entries showed the names of regular MoMo’s vendors instead of the names of the true payees such as her landlord, the collectible doll dealer, and the issuer of the unauthorized credit card.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed with the court, the thefts came to light in June 2005 when one of the MoMo’s managers noticed irregularities in the check ledger and contacted the San Francisco Police Department.
Ms. Griffen’s sentencing hearing is set for May 16, 2006, before U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup. Ms. Griffen was indicted by a grand jury on November 30, 2005.
The maximum statutory penalty for mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 is 20 years and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for credit card fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029 is 10 years and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Susan Badger is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Miche Sharpe. The prosecution is the result of a six-month investigation by the United States Secret Service.