CHICAGO — A Frankfurt woman was sentenced to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $650,000 from a national student organization working to improve minority representation in the pharmaceutical industry, according to the bureau of the US Attorney in Chicago.
Carmita Coleman, 50, was also ordered Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly to pay more than $490,000 in restitution, but Coleman and her husband filed for bankruptcy in February.
Coleman had been indicted in November 2020 and pleaded guilty in January to a single count of wire fraud, according to court documents.
During the fraud scheme, which lasted from 2011 to 2016, Coleman worked as the student organization’s executive director and was responsible for managing its finances. The organization was funded by student and chapter dues, convention registration fees and donations from corporate sponsors, according to the indictment.
In the government’s sentencing recommendation, filed with Kennelly last month, prosecutors said Coleman “used the organization’s funds like his own piggy bank,” dipping into his accounts to pay for vacations to destinations such as the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
In 2011 and 2012, according to the document, Coleman issued nearly $70,000 in checks against the organization’s accounts payable to herself and her husband, and in the following years “she made an incredible number of withdrawals in species”.
Trips to a bank to cash checks or make ATM withdrawals averaged about 200 transactions a year in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the filing.
While the money she oversaw was intended to help provide scholarships, cover student expenses and pay for community outreach activities, Coleman tapped funds to enrich herself and her family, according to the filing. .
The organization was only identified in the indictment as ‘Organization A’, but it was the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, which sued Coleman in federal court in March 2021 in an attempt to recover funds. allegedly stolen, according to court documents.
The Louisiana-based group was founded in 1972 and its members are pharmacy students concerned about the pharmacy profession, health issues and the low representation of minorities in these fields, according to its website.
The organization’s lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of Coleman and her husband’s bankruptcy filing in federal bankruptcy court in Chicago, a lawsuit document says.
To cover up the theft of the student pharmacy, by submitting false annual financial reports showing that the organization had received “significantly less revenue” than what had actually been collected and by recording fund balances lower than the real money which was in hand, according to a file in Coleman’s criminal record.
In February 2016, another person was to be named executive director of the organization after a separate entity overseeing the pharmacy group questioned Coleman’s description of the student organization’s finances, according to the sentencing recommendation document. of the government.
Coleman “feigned outrage at any suggestion of impropriety and insisted she could outline the organization’s expenses ‘to the penny,'” Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Heidi Manschreck said. in the file.
Even after being ousted as the organization’s executive director, Coleman refused to relinquish control of his bank accounts to continue extracting money from the group, the prosecutor wrote.
The government had requested a sentence at the bottom of the sentencing guidelines, which called for a prison term of between 41 and 51 months followed by a period of probation.
Prosecutors noted that Coleman had, in an effort for restitution, made payments to the student pharmacy group, but those payments have since ceased.
Coleman and her husband, in their bankruptcy filing, said their monthly income was nearly $5,300 and they rented the Frankfurt home where they lived.
The judge handling the bankruptcy case, in the latest filing in the matter, said the case was at risk of being thrown out after Coleman and her husband so far failed to submit filing fees of the case, amounting to approximately $400. A status hearing is scheduled for June.
At the time of the pharmacy student group’s embezzlement, Coleman was a professor and acting dean of Chicago State University’s college of pharmacy, but no funds were embezzled from the university, according to sources. court documents.