A Greene County, New York, woman pled guilty today to stealing at least $3.1 million from Cargill, Inc. (“Cargill”) over 10 years and causing at least $25 million in losses. The woman was an accounting manager at Cargill, the country’s largest privately held corporation, based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Diane Backis, age 50, of Athens, New York, pled guilty to mail fraud and filing a false income tax return. Backis was responsible for accounting functions related to Cargill’s grain operations in Albany, including creating customer contracts, generating and mailing invoices, and receiving and processing customer payments. As part of her plea, Backis admitted that she defrauded Cargill while working in its Port of Albany facility, which receives, stores, and sells grain products.
As part of her plea, Backis admitted that she stole hundreds of customer payments sent to Cargill totaling at least $3,115,610 and deposited them into her personal bank accounts. Backis also regularly created fraudulent invoices and mailed them to Cargill’s customers. The fraudulent invoices charged Cargill’s customers prices substantially less than what Cargill paid to acquire the grain products, causing Cargill significant financial losses. The fraudulent invoices also directed Cargill’s customers to send payment directly to Backis, thereby bypassing Cargill’s corporate controls. To hide her activities, Backis made false entries into Cargill’s accounting software to make it appear that customers were paying prices higher than those in her fraudulent invoices, and that customers owed Cargill millions of dollars for delivered grain products, only to reverse those false entries. As a result, Cargill lost at least $25 million.
Backis also admitted that she filed a false 2015 individual income tax return because she declared only $61,208 in total income and omitted over $450,000 in additional taxable income she received by stealing customer payments intended for Cargill in 2015.
Backis faces up to 20 years in prison, a 3-year term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 when she is sentenced on March 28, 2017 by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino. As part of her guilty plea, Backis has agreed to pay Cargill at least $3.5 million in restitution, and to forfeiture of her house in Athens, an investment brokerage account, and her Cargill pension benefits. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statutes the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.