Kansas woman pleads guilty to computer fraud

A Kansas woman  has pleaded guilty to stealing from her employer and damaging the company’s computer system in an effort to cover up the thefts.

Barbara James pleaded guilty to one count of exceeding authorized access to a protected computer and intentionally causing damage to the computer system. In her plea, she admitted the crimes took place in 2004 and 2005 while she was employed as a controller for Star Signs & Graphics in Lawrence, Kan. Through a service provided by a company in Santa Barbara, Calif., James had remote access to her company’s accounting system. She used her access to falsely increase her salary, to create forged checks on the company’s accounts, to make unauthorized charges on the company’s American Express account, and to make unauthorized payments from the company’s accounts to her personal credit cards.

In an effort to conceal the thefts, on March 18 and 19, 2005, she used her access to the company’s computer server to delete software that handled the company’s accounting. She also deleted more than 18,000 files from her workstation account. As a result, the company’s server had to be rebuilt at a cost of more than $87,872. Total loss to the company is calculated at $105,604. In her plea, James agreed to pay restitution for the full amount.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 14, 2009. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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