Ash Grove Woman Sentenced for $1.3 Million Theft, Tax Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – An Ash Grove, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for a wire fraud scheme in which she embezzled more than $362,000 from her Springfield, Mo., employer and failed to pay nearly $1 million in business payroll taxes and personal income taxes.

Carrie Leigh Long, 52, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to three years and five months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Long to pay $1,329,440 in restitution — $362,175 to her employer and $1,071,802 to the IRS. The court also ordered Long to forfeit to the government $362,175.

On April 25, 2022, Long pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of failure to pay over employment taxes.

Long was employed by Executive Coach Builders, Inc. to provide in-house accounting services to the company and to Executive Bus Builders, Inc. The companies are headquartered in Springfield but do business worldwide with factories and sales offices in Missouri and California. The companies build luxury buses, coaches, and limousines. Long was hired in April 2014.

Long admitted that she stole at least $362,175 from the companies from February 2016 to September 2020. Long also admitted that she failed to pay approximately $902,226 of employment taxes the companies owed to the IRS. By not making these payments, Long created a pool of funds in the companies’ bank accounts from which she continued her embezzlement scheme.

Long used her position as an in-house accountant for the companies, and her access to the companies’ check stock, to regularly write checks against the companies’ bank accounts for unauthorized payments to herself. Long stole money from the companies by filling in unauthorized amounts on some pre-signed checks and making such checks payable to herself. Long also stole money from the companies by forging signatures on the companies’ checks, filling in unauthorized amounts on the checks, and making such checks payable to herself.

According to court documents, Long stole from the companies at least 198 times. When the companies’ owner confronted her with evidence that she had stolen from the companies and that she had not paid over the companies’ employment taxes, she continued to lie to him, forcing him to hire an accounting firm to investigate.

As part of the scheme, Long did not claim the unauthorized payments as personal income on her individual income tax returns from 2016 through 2020. This resulted in a loss to the IRS of $65,039.

Beginning in April 2019, Long ceased to make regular payments to the IRS for the employment taxes the companies owed the IRS. Long concealed her actions from company officials by altering the companies’ bank account statements and misrepresenting on her financial reports that the payments had been made. Long caused the companies to fail to pay over to the IRS approximately $902,226 of taxes (including both the employer portion and the funds withheld from the companies’ employees’ paychecks) owed to the IRS for two quarters of 2019 and one quarter of 2020.

When an agent from the Internal Revenue Service attempted to collect those delinquent tax payments, Long falsely claimed they had been paid and provided forged bank account statements.

According to court documents, Long was convicted in state court of similar conduct with a previous employer and was still on probation for that crime at the time of this federal offense. On Oct. 21, 2013, she pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of Laclede County, Mo., to stealing more than $88,000 from a client of her then-accounting firm employer. As in this federal case, she stole by forging checks made payable to herself and endorsed in her own name against the victim’s bank account. Long received a suspended five-year sentence, was ordered to serve 90 days shock time, placed on probation for five years, and ordered to pay restitution to her victim within 30 days of her sentencing.

Long’s mother actually paid her court-ordered restitution on her behalf in the state case. Long used the money she stole from the companies in this scheme to pay her mother back for the prior victims’ restitution payment.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Kempf. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI.