Greenville, South Carolina – A Texas woman has pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud for defrauding Michelin North America Inc. of approximately $1.4 million (€1.2m), according to the Office of the US District Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
Theresa Lopez Santos, 65, of Lytle, Texas, was an employee of Vehicular Testing Services (VTS), a business in Lytle that provides tire testing services to Michelin.
Santos was the company's bookkeeper, responsible for billing Michelin for services provided, according to a 18 July press release from the district attorney's office.
When VTS got into financial trouble, Santos overbilled Michelin to make up for the company's losses, said David Stephens, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case. Michelin noticed discrepancies in the bills it received from VTS, and contacted the FBI, Stephens said.
When the FBI approached Santos, she admitted to the fraud, he said.
No one else in the company knew about the overbilling, according to Stephens.
"She was an hourly employee," he said. "She had no financial interest in the company, except for keeping her job."
Santos faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each count, according to the district attorney's office. Sentencing will occur in 45 to 60 days, Stephens said.