HUFFINGTON POST
06/21/2012 01:50 pm ET

Patricia Smith Sentenced To 78 Months After Embezzling More Than $10 Million

An annual salary of $53,000 evidently wasn't enough for one Pittsburgh-area woman, so she embezzled more than $10 million from the Acura dealership where she worked, according to federal prosecutors.

Patricia Smith, 58, pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge after embezzling millions through fraudulent record keeping and bank transfers from Baierl Acura, where she was a controller. Smith will go to prison in July and will have to return the stolen money to the dealership.

With the economic downturn has come an uptick in employee fraud. Nearly one-third of employees commit some kind of employee theft, according to the Department of Justice.

Steven Balmer, in a report for Traveler's Insurance, explains, "Employees may be motivated by events going on in their own lives, such as a gambling or drug problem, threatened foreclosure on their home, or a greedy desire for a different lifestyle. They may rationalize their theft by deciding their employer has treated them poorly, that the business will continue to be profitable despite their thefts, or that a kickback is not 'really' taking anything away from the firm."

As Smith told local Channel 4 news reporter Shannon Perrine, she never felt like a good daughter, wife, mother or friend. She claimed she committed the fraud in order to ingratiate herself with friends and family and "earn their love," according to the station.

Smith's defense attorney Tina Miller wrote in court papers that her client "suffered from depression and from an abusive childhood, which resulted in compulsive behavior, including excessive spending, shopping and gambling," according to Cranberry Patch.

From late 2004 through July 2011, Smith made more than 800 transfers to her personal account from the Baierl payroll bank account. The extra cash allowed her to purchase 10 cars and four properties for herself and her family and pay for several extravagant trips and "experiences," including a luncheon for six cooked by Food Network star Ina Garten at her New York estate, VIP Superbowl tickets and personal tours of the Vatican, according to prosecutors' documents.

See the complete list of Smith's and her family's forfeitures here.

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