NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A Pennsylvania woman who formerly lived in Greenwich pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $700,000 from a private real estate management and development company, its employees and their families, according to federal officials.
Debra Biagi, 50, of Fogelsville, Pa., waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday to one count of wire fraud, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly.
For nearly two years between February 2014 and December 2015, Biagi, while employed by the HB Nitkin Group of Greenwich, served as an assistant to the company’s chairman, according to Daly.
Included in her responsibilities was the management of accounts payable to HB Nitkin, Daly said.
Biagi use her position to steal more than $711,000 from the company along with several company employees and their families who “retained financial and banking information at the company,” according to Daly.
Biagi’s scam involved the creation of “fraudulent invoices made out to fictitious companies detailing charges for items such as masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing work,” according to Daly, who said that she used the victims’ checkbooks to cut checks for the fake companies to pay the fake invoices, endorsing each check with an illegible signature and then withdrawing the money for herself.
Daly said Biagi often included her initials in the names she gave to the fake companies as a means to help her remember which invoices were legitimate and which were not.
The 50-year-old then noted the companies’ names while doctoring HB Nitkin accounting books, Daly said, adding that she “misappropriated” the chairman’s signature on checks to give the appearance that the payments were “legitimate and authorized.”
In other instances, Biagi simply stole checks from HB Nitkin employees, often making them out to cash and then taking the money for herself, Daly said.
Biagi is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer on Nov. 21. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Daly said Biagi’s case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser, was aided by the FBI and the Greenwich Police Department.