Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aide Steals From Steel

Publishers Lunch directed me to a news item I had previously missed.

The Associated Press (AP) reported today:
A former aide to Danielle Steel is facing time in federal prison after admitting she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the romance novelist.
Actually there appears to be some question as to how much Kristy Watts stole from her former employer. According to tomorrow's Independent (UK):
Watts has already admitted embezzling $400,000 and it has emerged that she pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion in a hush-hush hearing last week. At the time, Steel was referred to only as "employer A".
However, in the civil lawsuit Steel filed, she alleges Watts cost her $2.7 million over the fifteen years the two were together.

The San Francisco Examiner said Watts pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. The Examiner goes on to say:
In a written plea agreement filed in court, Watts admitted that between 2003 and 2008, "I embezzled and stole more than $400,000" from the employer.
My first thought was, "That's the last five years of your employment (Steel fired Watts in December, 2008). What about the first ten years?"

WGAL in San Francisco says that Steel formed the TPA Company (she was once married to financier Tom Perkins) to handle her household and travel expenses. Watts was controller of TPA. WGAL also reports:
Watts, who is also known as Kristy Siegrist, said in the federal plea agreement that she embezzled from Steel in three ways: depositing checks made out by her employer for "cash" to her personal account; using the employer's credit card reward points to buy airline tickets and gift cards for Watts and her family; and arranging for a payroll processing company to pay her more than she was due . . .
The AP indicated that "Sentencing is set for Feb. 4 in federal court in San Francisco."

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