Buckley woman pleads guilty to federal mail-fraud charges
URBANA — A Buckley woman is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28 after she pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal mail-fraud charges for defrauding a Champaign law firm of more than $150,000 over a 10-year period.
Laura R. Tholen of Buckley pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of mail fraud in connection with a scheme affecting her former employer, Erwin, Martinkus & Cole Ltd. of Champaign.
Tholen agreed to a stipulated sentence of 21 months in federal prison with an agreement to pay more than $66,000 in restitution to the law firm, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson, who prosecuted the case.
Tholen could have faced up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each of the three counts, Peirson said.
On Dec. 6, a federal grand jury charged Tholen with the three counts of mail fraud following an investigation by the Champaign Police Department.
According to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Central District of Illinois, Tholen worked as the firm's office manager from February 2000 to February 2010 and served as legal assistant to a lawyer who practiced family law.
The indictment said Tholen was responsible for the lawyer's client trust account. Money received from clients was held in the trust account until it was needed to pay child support, spousal maintenance, filing fees, court costs, legal fees, and settlements of expenses and accounts.
According to the indictment, Tholen allegedly used more than 100 checks totalling more than $150,000 from the trust account to pay for her personal expenses, including rent and credit-card accounts.