ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. (WJZY) — A North Carolina woman has been sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzling more than $15 million from her former employer. She used the funds to pay for a family wedding, luxury clothing, and much more, officials said.
According to court documents, from 2013 to January 2020, Donna Osowitt Steele, 53, of Taylorsville, executed an extensive scheme to defraud her employer, only identified in documents as ‘Victim Company A.’
Steele began working for Victim Company A’s shipping department in 1999, records show. Over the next 20 years, Steele was promoted to various positions within the company, including the position of CEO, which she held until she was terminated in January 2020.
Court records show that, while serving as Vice President and later as CEO, Steele used her positions to embezzle funds from Victim Company A in a number of ways, including through fraudulent company credit card purchases, company checks, and wire transfers.
Court documents state that Steele used company credit cards to pay for $6 million in personal expenditures, including making high-end retail store purchases, paying for a family wedding, and making purchases related to Opulence by Steele — a luxury clothing and boutique company owned by the defendant.
Steele also issued herself approximately 98 checks totaling more than $2.8 million from Victim Company A’s bank accounts, which she deposited into her personal bank account, records show.
According to court documents, over the course of the scheme, Steele embezzled more than $15 million from Victim Company A.
As a result of Steele’s embezzlement, Victim Company A experienced several difficulties, including vendors withholding products for non-payment or late payments, employees not being paid on time, and/or employees having their insurance canceled without warning.
Court records show that in an effort to hide the scheme, Steele limited communications between the employees and the owners of Victim Company A.
Steele has been ordered to serve three years under court supervision after she completes her prison term and to pay $17,189.748.26 in restitution.
She previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with the scheme.