The numbers just didn’t add up.
Karen Owens, a Phelps resident, who served as finance director for Finger Lakes Conveyors for 13 years has been charged with wire and bank fraud in U.S. District Court.
The charges carry a sentence of 30 years.
It’s because over that period – $1.4 million was stolen.
According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Owens on Jan. 24 by Daniel Ciavarri, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Owens was employed at Finger Lakes Conveyors since 2003 and worked as its finance director. Her responsibilities included accounts receivable, accounts payable and human resource duties.
The criminal complaint says Owens wrote checks from Finger Lakes Conveyors to herself, and that she disguised some of the payments by reporting them as payments to the company’s various vendors. She also wrote unauthorized checks to pay off a credit card she had through Chase Bank, according to the complaint.
On Oct. 17, 2017, Owens signed an affidavit of confession of judgment admitting to taking nearly $1.4 million from 2004 until August 2017, when she was fired by the company.
Mike Gelder was stunned by the discovery. He spoke to the Finger Lakes Times telling them that the two families were close. “We used to go on vacations together. I thought I hired somebody I could trust,” he said.
Gelder couldn’t understand why the company’s year-end numbers weren’t better – given the volume the company was doing.
“I did some digging because things looked a little fishy,” said Gelder, who sold Finger Lakes Conveyors to another company last year but remains on as president.
As part of that affidavit, Gelder’s attorney said Owens made a payment of $130,000 in November 2017; and was required to make a $70,000 payment the following month.
It never happened.
“She never made that payment,” Myers said, adding that Owens has been making payments of $500 a month. “The problem is this was over $1 million.” Myers, who represents Gelder, is hopeful that more money will be retrieved in the future through court-ordered restitution.
If Owns is found guilty or takes a plea, a prison sentence would be possible, according to Myers.
Gelder said it was a contributing factor to him selling the business. “It was an unthinkable thing,” he told the Finger Lakes Times. “It took a toll on me and my employees.”