Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Former Berks County Recorder of Deeds Charged in Fraud Scheme

An indictment was filed today charging the former Berks County Recorder of Deeds, Elba Antoine, a/k/a Ellie, 68, of Bluffton, South Carolina, with defrauding the County of tens of thousands of dollars in fees paid to the Recorder of Deeds Office, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Antoine is alleged to have carried out the fraud while serving in the elected position between the years 2004 and 2007.

According to the indictment, a forensic auditor determined that for all but 10 days between December 1, 2004 and Decemeber 31, 2007, approximately $153,402.30 in cash was received at the Recorder Of Deeds Office that was not deposited into the office bank accounts. From at least December 2004 through in or about April 2008, defendant Antoine and her husband deposited cash and paid expenses with cash that was not explained by their income as reported on their federal tax returns.

The indictment alleges that Antoine established policies, procedures, and practices in the Recorder of Deeds Office that enabled her to receive fees paid to the office that were not cashiered or reported and that enabled her to convert the unreported fees paid to the office into cash. Antoine allegedly accumulated in her office safe the unreported fees and cash paid to the office. It is further alleged that Antoine devised a fee structure for the recording of official documents and deeds that did not refund overpayments to persons or businesses filing such documents and that she concealed these overpayments by establishing a system that falsely reported that the amount of overpayments had been refunded to filers as change. The overpayments were allegedly stored in envelopes in Antoine’s office safe.

The indictment further alleges that Antoine prohibited employees from attempting to independently verify the amount of money that the Recorder Of Deeds Office reported as having received from the office copying machines. Antoine allegedly directed employees who tried to verify the amount of money to stop their efforts and fired an employee who attempted to correlate the number of copies made each day with the copying fees the office collected.

Antoine is also charged in the indictment with not claiming those additional funds on her 2006 and 2007 federal income taxes. Antoine is charged with five counts of mail fraud and two counts of willfully filing a false federal income tax return.

If convicted of all charges, Antoine faces a maximum possible sentence of 106 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $1.75 million, three years’ supervised release, and a $700 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the Berks County District Attorney’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Grieb.

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