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American Horse Council employee pleads guilty to embezzlement

February 01, 2019
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Ashley Furst, 35, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., pled guilty on Jan. 29 to a federal wire fraud charge stemming from an embezzlement scheme in which she stole more than $545,000 from the American Horse Council, a non-profit organization based in the District of Columbia.
 
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
 
Furst pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Furst faces a likely range of 27 to 33 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. She also has agreed to pay $545,594 in restitution and the same amount in a forfeiture money judgment. The Honorable Dabney L. Friedrich scheduled sentencing for May 10, 2019.
 
According to the government’s evidence, Furst was hired in 2011 as the office administrator for the American Horse Council.  She was later promoted to the position of Director of Communications.  While employed by the non-profit, Furst’s responsibilities included public outreach, membership recruitment, and communications. She also handled duties typically performed by an office administrator, such as maintaining accounting records, reconciling the monthly bank account statements, transferring on-line donations from the PayPal account to their bank account, providing copies of the bank statements to the members of the Board of Directors, and serving as the sole point of contact for the outside auditors.
 
Starting in 2012 and continuing through June 2018, Furst stole money from the non-profit in a variety of ways.  First, she paid her own personal credit card bills from her employer’s bank account, primarily through on-line debits from the bank account to satisfy her credit card balance, for approximately $415,202.52.  Second, she wrote herself unauthorized checks drawn on her employer’s bank account, typically listing on the memo line a bogus reason for the check, for approximately $83,656.40.  Third, she repaid her personal loan from her employer’s funds, for approximately $56,411.43. Fourth, although Furst was responsible for transferring donations from her employer’s PayPal account, she misdirected approximately $60,949.49 to her own account or to pay for personal items. Fifth, Furst increased her salary without authorization, by approximately $29,875.03. Through these five methods, Furst embezzled approximately $646,094. However, before the victim discovered the crime, Furst returned $100,500 to her employer, leaving a total embezzlement of $545,594.
 
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Assistant Director in Charge McNamara commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Amanda Rohde and Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the matter. (US Attorney's Office/District Of Columbia)
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