Santa Ana, California - The owner and operator of a financial services company that provided accounting, tax and bookkeeping services to small businesses was sentenced today to 63 months in federal prison for embezzling more than $1.5 million from her clients.
Elizabeth Jane Mulder, who also goes by “Lizzie,” a 34-year-old resident of San Juan Capistrano, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge David O. Carter. Noting that Mulder used the money for “personal aggrandizement,” Judge Carter said the victims in this case represented “a vulnerable section of society because small business is the backbone of our country.”
Mulder, who was the owner of Mulder Financial Consulting, pleaded guilty in June to wire fraud and subscribing to a false income tax return for failing to report the misappropriated funds to the Internal Revenue Service.
According to documents filed in United States District Court, from July 2009 until this past spring, Mulder obtained money from small business clients by gaining the trust of their owners, some of whom allowed her to control their financial accounts.
Mulder convinced nearly all of her victims to make checks payable to “Income Tax Payments” with false promises that the money would be used to satisfy the clients’ past and future tax obligations. Mulder then deposited these checks into the bank account of a fictitious business she created called “Income Tax Payments” and converted the funds for her own personal use.
Mulder, who was personal friends with most of the victims, used a variety of means to defraud the victims, including creating false personas and fraudulent bank accounts. Using fictitious email accounts, Mulder posed as a potential buyer for one business, obtained a power-of-attorney over that business’ accounts and emptied the business’ accounts claiming the funds were being used for expenses associated with the sale of the company. In reality, Mulder had used the business’ money for her own personal expenses.
Mulder’s fraudulent scheme resulted in the theft of approximately $1,538,771 from several Orange County-based businesses, including JAC Wines in San Clemente, Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates in San Juan Capistrano and Andra Builders, Inc. in Costa Mesa.
Mulder used the money obtained from her fraudulent scheme for a variety of personal expenses, including a rental home in Laguna Beach, cosmetic surgery, vacations and an Arabian horse.
“By developing and continuing personal friendships with the victims, [Mulder] was able to assume responsibilities for their small business accounting needs and then proceeded to steal from them,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “[Mulder]’s conduct resulted in various levels of financial loss and emotional distress to the victims, many of whom were required to drain their personal bank accounts or retirement funds in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.”
In addition to the prison term, Judge Carter ordered Mulder to pay $1,538,781 in restitution to seven victims, including the IRS.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; IRS Criminal Investigation; and the Laguna Beach Police Department, Investigations Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Tenley and Paul C. LeBlanc of the Santa Ana Branch Office.