URBANA — A Buckley woman faces federal mail fraud charges for allegedly defrauding a Champaign law firm of more than $150,000 over a 10-year period.
Laura R. Tholen, 55, of Buckley, was arraigned on Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal in Urbana.
A federal grand jury charged Tholen on Dec. 6 with three counts of mail fraud in connection with a scheme affecting her former employer — Erwin, Martinkus & Cole Ltd. of Champaign — following an investigation by the Champaign Police Department.
If convicted, Tholen faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each of the three counts.
According to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, 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.
Bernthal scheduled Tholen's trial for March 12.