(The Center Square) – A Missouri woman awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to embezzling $727,000 admitted to fraudulently applying for three federal Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $40,823, according to U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming.
Christen Diane Schulte of Franklin County pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of money laundering on Aug. 3, 2020. Schulte admitted embezzling funds from her employer and other individuals and entities linked to her employer.
Schulte was a former bookkeeper and office manager of a farm and trucking companies. She diverted funds for her own personal use by opening new credit card accounts in the names of the companies and charged more than 1,800 transactions totaling more than $532,000. She also forged signatures on checks from several bank accounts, including the personal accounts of employees.
While successfully getting a series of delays in her sentencing for the embezzlement crimes, she admitted to applying for three PPP loans between March 22 and May 19, 2021. The federal loans were designed to help small businesses survive and maintain employee payrolls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schulte admitted lying while applying for the loans when asked if she was facing or had been convicted of a felony. She also admitted lying when asked the same question about a felony conviction for fraud, bribery, embezzlement or making a false statement when applying for a loan or for federal assistance. She also admitted to lying about the gross income for her company, the “Mama Bear Cake Company.”
One loan application for $13,691 was rejected due to her criminal history. Another loan for $13,566 was approved by a different financial institution and she made a “second draw” for the same amount from the same institution. She received the funds on May 19, 2021, and eight days later was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison and ordered to pay $517,140 in the embezzlement case. She began serving a sentence on Aug. 30, 2021.
Schulte was indicted in the PPP loan fraud case on Nov. 10, 2021, and she pled guilty to three counts of bank fraud on Wednesday.
Schulte faces up to 30 years in prison on each count of fraud and is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 28. She could get an additional 10 years for committing the crimes while on pretrial release in the embezzlement case.