Employee stole $144,000 from local education non-profit

An Upper Marlboro woman has pleaded guilty to stealing $144,000 through a scheme in which she created false expense reimbursements in the names of co-workers at a non-profit organization in the District.

Tabitha Harley-Williams, 34, entered her plea Tuesday in federal court in D.C. in the embezzlement from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, where she worked from 2008 until last year. Court files show she resigned shortly before a routine budget review uncovered losses tracking to 2012.

The council was identified as “Company A” in court records but its president, Albert C. Gray, confirmed the council’s loss in the case through “fairly sophisticated ma­nipu­la­tion of our computer records.”

Court files show Harley-Williams worked in accounting for the organization and prepared employee expense reports for payment. In her scheme, court records show, Harley-Williams created false claims in others’ names that she submitted to a supervisor to review. Payments would be made through direct deposit to employees’ bank accounts but minutes before a transfer was cleared, court records show, Harley-Williams would modify the organization’s computer records to redirect the money to her bank accounts.

Dani Jahn, an attorney for Harley-Williams, declined to discuss how the money was spent or otherwise comment on the case.

Harley-Williams pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where a July sentencing is scheduled. She faces a likely term of between a year and 18 months in prison, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Mary Pat Flaherty works on investigative and long-range stories. Her work has won numerous national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.

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