Cashier admits stealing $13M at Pittsburgh monuments firm

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The former cashier at a Pennsylvania monuments and engraving firm has acknowledged stealing nearly $13 million over 16 years and is hoping a judge will approve a seven-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence for her crimes.

Cynthia Mills' defense attorney, Phil DiLucente, says she also can have a better future, possibly as a security consultant that would help other companies prevent fraud like the one she perpetrated at Matthews International Corp. in Pittsburgh from 1999 to 2015.

"She's like Frank Abagnale," DiLucente said Thursday.

Abagnale, 68, runs a world-renowned security firm but as a young man was a check forger, impostor and con man. Leonardo DiCaprio starred as the charismatic thief in the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can."

Mills pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion and to one count of "engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property." Under the plea agreement, she must forfeit any assets purchased with the stolen money and agree to make payments toward the $12.9 million she stole. She must also spend three years on probation after her prison term.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer must approve the agreed-upon sentence when Mills returns to court July 28. DiLucente said it's possible the 56-year-old Robinson Township woman might earn enough money to repay her considerable debt to Matthews.

"She is by any stretch of the imagination a very, very intelligent person," DiLucente said. "I think she could go to work helping companies in the future determine if there's any fraud."

Mills' job was to deposit checks made out to Matthews and to make wire transfers to pay the company's vendors. While she did that, Mills also moved money from company accounts into her own bank accounts, then covered up the thefts by forging bank statements and creating fake invoices, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul Desai said in previous court appearances.

The money she stole fueled a lavish lifestyle for Mills and her husband, a UPS driver who was able to retire because of Mills' extra, illegal income, Desai said. Gary Mills has not been accused of wrongdoing or charged with any crimes.

Prosecutors have listed scores of items Mills bought with stolen money that will be seized and sold to help repay Matthews, including three homes, an $800,000 yacht and two other boats, at least eight cars, a snowmobile, three motorcycles, furs, designer handbags and jewelry. But DiLucente said the money spent on those items was a small fraction of what she stole.

"When you look at the amount of money spent on those items, it might have been a couple million" dollars, DiLucente said. "Most of the money went to the Rivers Casino" in Pittsburgh.

"She is extremely remorseful for her actions, however, due to an addiction to gambling, in my humble opinion, it was very hard for her to stop stealing," DiLucente said.

Matthews International is a publicly traded company with more than 10,000 employees at 100 facilities on six continents, according to its website.

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