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Worcester woman sentenced to 2 years in jail for stealing 50k from Waltham employer

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 27, 2012 04:40 PM

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The Worcester woman who pleaded guilty earlier this month to stealing nearly $50,000 from her employer in Waltham was sentenced to two years in prison today and ordered to pay the money back in restitution, said Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone's office.

Heather Christianson, 26, pleaded guilty to three counts of larceny over $250 for submitting fake tuition reimbursements, illegally using the company credit card for personal use, and seeking reimbursement for expenses she never paid at her company, Autodesk, Inc. in Waltham.

Christianson was sentenced to two years in jail, one year to serve with the balance suspended for five years, and probation for five years from and after her jail sentence. She is also ordered to pay $49,999 in restitution.

“The defendant had been working for years in a position of responsibility, and abused the trust placed in her by her employer and coworkers,” Leone said in a statement. “We are pleased that the defendant has been held accountable for her greed and dishonesty."

According to authorities, Christianson was employed as an executive assistant at Autodesk, Inc. from October 2007 until September 2011. During a routine internal audit, company officials discovered that the Christianson's expenses were unusually high and launched an internal investigation.

Authorities said that since the company offers a tuition reimbursement program, Christianson submitted and was paid for bogus tuition incurred for courses she never took at three separate colleges, none of which she attended. She falsely reported to Autodesk that she had earned “A”s in 12 separate evening and summer classes, including a course titled “Ethical Business Decision Making.”

Christianson also filed expense reports that double-billed the company, using receipts for goods and services already paid for by the company and submitting them for personal reimbursement, claiming to have paid the bills, authorities said.

She also abused a company credit card to buy personal items for herself, such as a camera, and gifts and gift cards for friends and relatives, according to investigators.

After being questioned by company officials, and admitting to the allegations, she was fired from her job on Sept. 7, 2011.

She was indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on Feb. 16, 2012, and arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court on March 14.

"We remind all businesses to implement a number of simple, cost-effective safeguards and checks and balances to better protect themselves from internal theft and embezzlement," Leone said in his statement.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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