A former HP financial planning manager pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns stemming from the embezzlement of company funds.
According to the US Department of Justice, Shelbee Szeto, 30, of Fremont, California, worked at HP Inc from August 2017 to June 2021, first as an executive assistant and later as a financial planning.
During this time, she was responsible for paying HP vendors. As described in its indictment, HP issued its employees commercial credit cards called purchase cards or PCards. Company policy stated that these were not to be used for personal expenses.
“To reconcile a purchase, HP employees had to approve the purchase using the HP online system, enter a description of the charge and business justification, and attach a copy of the invoice associated with the payment,” according to the indictment. [PDF] Explain.
Szeto was given multiple PC cards and, according to prosecutors, she devised a scheme to make purported supplier payments to financial accounts she controlled, then used the HP funds to purchase goods for herself.
“Between approximately April 24, 2018 and approximately April 23, 2021, Szeto knowingly charged approximately $4.8 million in payments from his HP PCards to PayPal, Square, and Stripe merchant accounts under his control and for his personal benefit,” says the indictment.
To make these expenses appear legitimate, Szeto submitted false invoices to HP.
Szeto managed to make several trades in the range of $30,000 to $40,000; Square refused to process a payment of $330,000. When asked about supporting documents by the payment processor, she allegedly provided false documents and falsely told Square investigators that the funds were for marketing work related to a real estate transaction.
His bank, First Republic, also questioned the source of his funds, according to the indictment, and the IRS noticed that his 2019 and 2020 tax forms were inaccurate. In total, Szeto would have cost HP $5.2 million.
The Justice Department said Szeto spent the funds on: a 2020 Tesla sedan; a 2021 Porsche SUV; various bags and handbags from Chanel, Dior, Gucci and Hermès; and an assortment of jewelry including necklaces, rings, pendants and wristwatches from Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Cartier and Rolex.
HP did not respond to a request for comment.
Rachael A. Robinson, Szeto’s attorney, in an email to The register said: “Ms Szeto accepts her responsibilities and does her best to redeem herself.”
Szeto pleaded guilty to five counts: two of wire fraud, two of money laundering and one of filing a false tax return. His sentencing is scheduled for July 20, 2022. ®