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St Louis Woman Indicted on Federal Fraud Charges

Deborah Pierce, St. Louis, Missouri, was indicted on Wednesday, November 16, for embezzling more than $380,000 from a joint educational venture between her employer, Webster University, and a Chinese government cultural agency.

According to the indictment, Pierce was appointed the director of the Confucius Institute at Webster University and was entrusted with the oversight of the Institute’s funding, which came mainly from Webster University and the People’s Republic of China.  According to the indictment, in September 2013, Pierce established a separate, unauthorized bank account over which she had sole control and directed the funds of the Confucius Institute through it.

Between September 2013 and June 2016, it is alleged that Pierce diverted more than $380,000 to herself from the Institute’s funds by writing checks to cash, checks to herself and paying various personal bills and accounts and those of her family members.

If convicted of mail fraud, Pierce faces a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000 or both.  Restitution to the victims is mandatory, and the government is seeking to forfeit a money judgment for all of the embezzled funds.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with assistance from Webster University. Assistant United States Attorney Tom Albus is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt.  Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.