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Ex-hotel employee pleads guilty to wire fraud

February 3, 2015
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A former hotel employee has pled guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from her employer over several years.

Renata Nicole Annese of Jenison pled guilty last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to one count of wire fraud while working at the Sleep Inn in Allendale, according to Grand Rapids-based U.S. Attorney General Patrick Miles, Jr. last week.

Guilty plea

Annese agreed to pay restitution of approximately $872,000 and forfeit her equity interest in her personal residence in Jenison, because she used the fraud to make her mortgage payments.

She will be sentenced on May 18, when she will face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Committing fraud

Annese repeatedly used the Internet to siphon funds intended for her employer and divert them illegally to her own bank accounts.

From October 2006 until April 2013, Annese used interstate wires to defraud the former owner of the Sleep Inn of nearly a million dollars.

She did this by regularly accessing the Internet, so that she could edit data related to the hotel’s credit card sales. Annese inserted her own personal credit card and bank debit card numbers on the payment side of many of those transactions.

This caused the hotel customers’ cards to be charged, but directed the customers’ banks to send the payments to Annese’s credit and debit cards, instead of to the hotel’s bank account.

Annese concealed her fraud by pairing her credit and bank debit card numbers with names and charge amounts actually associated with real hotel customers. This made it appear as if those customers were receiving a credit back to their cards, when in reality Annese was receiving the payments.

Impact on hotel owner

The former owner of the Sleep Inn sold the hotel in 2013, because of its struggling financial performance and did not learn of Annese’s fraud until shortly after the sale.

“The repeated use of interstate wire transmissions to steal nearly a million dollars and to contribute to this victim’s decision that he had to sell his business makes this case especially appropriate for federal prosecution,” Miles said.

The case reflects that there are “always very real victims on the other end of financial fraud crimes,” said Paul Abbate, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office.

“The FBI remains committed to deterring this type of conduct and bringing justice to those who perpetrate fraudulent financial schemes in violation of federal law,” Abbate said.

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