CLIFTON, N.J. -- A Clifton woman admitted in federal court Wednesday that she helped con a local trucking company out of $920,000.
Lisa Popewiny, 55, pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark to wire fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
Her three co-defendants -- brothers Miguel Vidal, Angel D. Vidal, and Angel Gabriel Vidal -- previously pleaded guilty to similar charges for their roles in the scheme and agreed to testify against her in return for leniency at sentencing.
The brothers said during their pleas that they allowed Popewiny, the company's payroll clerk, to use their personal identifying information to generate bogus paychecks from Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc.
The trio then converted the checks, many of which were deposited into their bank accounts and then funneled out of the accounts in cash, Fitzpatrick said.
Popewiny “falsified payroll records in order to generate fraudulent paychecks payable to non-existent employees, including the Vidal brothers,” the U.S. attorney said.
Miguel Vidal recruited other people to provide their personal information so that Popewiny could add them to the payroll, he added.
In the end, bogus hours were clocked for at least a dozen non-employees, Fitzpatrick said.
“The scheme came to light when owners of the company, in an effort to investigate suspected fraud, distributed the payroll checks to employees – a task normally completed by Popewiny,” the U.S. attorney said. “After all of the payroll checks had been distributed, several paychecks remained unclaimed that turned out to be fraudulently issued.”
Fitzpatrick credited criminal investigators from his office, as well as postal inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, for the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cari Fais of Fitzpatrick’s Special Prosecutions Division is handling the case.
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