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Ex-HP finance manager jailed after going on $5m spending spree using company plastic
Tesla sedan, 46 Chanel bags, 16 Rolexes, and more equals three years behind bars
Now-former HP finance manager Shelbee Szeto has been sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than 250 luxury items after she blew $5m on herself using company credit cards.
The list of stuff [PDF] she fraudulently bagged includes a 2020 Tesla sedan, a 2021 Porsche sport utility vehicle, 46 Chanel handbags, and 16 Rolex watches.
Szeto, 30, of Fremont, California pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and related tax charges in March. She worked for HP, first as an executive assistant and then as a finance planning manager, from about August 2017 until June 2021, according to US prosecutors.
As part of her job, Szeto was responsible for paying HP vendors, and as such, she had multiple company credit cards that were supposed to be used to make payments on HP's behalf — not for personal expenses.
However, instead of using these cards to pay HP's bills, we're told she set up bogus PayPal, Stripe, and Square profiles that were under Szeto's control but looked like legitimate merchant accounts. Szeto then funneled at least $4.8 million in fraudulent payments from the HP credit cards to the bogus accounts and bought hundreds of luxury goods for herself.
She also tried to charge another $330,000 to an HP card via a Square account under her control, and Square declined to process the transaction, according to court documents.
Plus, to further her scam, Szeto uploaded falsified invoices to HP's internal system and told the IT giant that the payments were made to legitimate suppliers. She also made false representations to Square and First Republic Bank — the phony Stripe and Square merchant accounts were linked to Szeto's personal bank account — that the fraudulent funds were legitimate business transactions.
Finally, Szeto also failed to report the income to the Internal Revenue Service when she filed her tax returns. Oops.
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In February, Szeto was charged with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, and one count of filing a false tax return before pleading guilty to all five counts a month later.
I was trying to impress people so they would want to be in my life
In a letter to the judge prior to her sentencing hearing, Szeto said she took full responsibility for her crimes, and noted she was suffering from addiction when she committed them and has since been in recovery to help deal with her problems. She said she also considered suicide because "couldn’t bear the shame and guilt of my past actions."
"My past actions were selfish, immoral, unjust, and utterly appalling," Szeto wrote [PDF].
"When committing my crimes, I was trying to impress people so they would want to be in my life and not abandon me. Now I have a whole support system of people that love me for who I am."
In addition to sentencing her to 36 months behind bars, federal district Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr this week ordered Szeto to serve three years of supervised release after her prison term. As a special condition of her supervised release, Szeto may not hold a position of fiduciary capacity or manage a third party's finances without the prior permission of her probation officer. ®