Louisiana woman indicted for allegedly bilking employer out of thousands

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment against a Zwolle woman charging her with bilking her former employer out of thousands of dollars, according to Alexander Van Hook, acting U.S Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.  

In the indictment, handed down on Feb. 25, Melissa H. Sepulvado, 58, is charged with 25 counts of wire fraud, alleging she devised a two-and-a-half year scheme in which her husband was paid $145,000 in unearned wages from the company where they both worked.

The indictment alleges that Sepulvado and her husband were both employed by Weyerhaeuser Company (“Weyerhaeuser”) at the company’s mill located in Zwolle. Sepulvado was employed as a Senior Support Specialist and her husband was employed as an hourly worker.

Her primary duties were to review and approve payroll entries for the hourly workers at the Zwolle mill through its internet based electronic payroll system, and  it is alleged in the indictment that from November 2014 through April 2017, Sepulvado cooked the books, so to speak, by devising a scheme to obtain money through the transmission of Weyerhaeuser electronic payroll information using  interstate wire communications.

The indictment further alleges that Sepulvado regularly entered fraudulent vacation hours on her husband’s time sheet and submitted electronic pay requests for those hours by means of an interstate wire communication in interstate commerce.

Although her husband was eligible to receive 200 hours of paid vacation time each calendar year, Sepulvado entered and approved more than 4,000 hours of paid vacation time for her husband for the calendar year 2016 alone.

Broken down, that means in 2016 that Mr. Sepulvado was paid for 500 eight-hour vacation days or 167 24-hour days. According to the indictment, Mrs. Sepulvado allegedly took steps to hide the fraudulent pay requests by backdating the paid vacation hours to completed pay periods.

The indictment further alleges that these fraudulent pay requests submitted by Sepulvado caused Weyerhaeuser to pay more than $145,000 in unearned wages to her husband, but it alleges, the unearned wages were not only taken by Sepulvado, but also controlled by her.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The FBI is conducting the investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cadesby B. Cooper is prosecuting the case.

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