A now-former payroll clerk was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on Monday for helping con a Clifton trucking company out of $920,380.
Lisa Popewiny, 56, also of Clifton, admitted her guilt last September , joining three brothers who also accepted deal from the government rather than face a jury in U.S. District Court in Newark.
Like Popewiny, Miguel Vidal, Angel D. Vidal, and Angel Gabriel Vidal previously pleaded guilty to similar charges for their roles in the scheme -- and, in doing so, agreed to testify against her if she took the case to trial.
The brothers admitted they allowed Popewiny, then 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.
Popewiny “falsified payroll records in order to generate fraudulent paychecks payable to non-existent employees, including the Vidal brothers,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Miguel Vidal, a former driver for the Clifton-based company, 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, the U.S. attorney said.
ALSO SEE: Authorities identified a Little Falls mom accused of leaving a 3-week-old boy in a hot car while she went grocery shopping in Clifton.
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, Carpenito said.
Several that remained unclaimed turned out to be bogus, he said.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo sentenced Popewiny to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $920,379 in restitution and $735,591 in forfeiture.
Carpenito 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 Carpenito’s Special Prosecutions Division and the division's deputy chief, Lee M. Cortes Jr., are handling the case.
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