OAKLAND – Celia Nipper, aka Celia Arrand, was sentenced this afternoon to 51 months in prison for committing wire fraud, bank fraud, and filing false tax returns in connection with a scheme to embezzle funds from a real estate technology company, announced Acting United States Attorney Alex G. Tse; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett; and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr., U.S. District Judge, following Nipper’s entry of a plea agreement on September 18, 2017.
According to her plea agreement, Nipper, 62, from Discovery Bay, Calif., admitted that while employed as an office manager, she used her position of financial control at the company to redirect funds intended for her employer to accounts that she controlled. Nipper acknowledged that from 2005 to 2011, while she managed her company’s accounts payable and accounts receivable, invoicing, and bill paying, she opened bank accounts in the name of her employer without disclosing their existence to her employer. She then directed customer payments to those accounts and used that money for her own personal gain. Nipper also admitted as part of the plea agreement that she misappropriated funds from her employer’s legitimate corporate bank accounts and used money belonging to her employer to pay for her own personal expenses and deposited funds into her personal bank accounts. Nipper acknowledged that her scheme defrauded the company of more than $2 million.
In addition, as part of the plea agreement, Nipper admitted that she overstated her income in connection with two mortgage loan applications in June of 2008. Further, Nipper admitted that she filed false U.S. Income Tax Returns for the tax years 2009, 2010, and 2011. In each case, she understated her income, resulting in a failure to report more than $1 million of income and a tax loss to the United States of at least $290,000.
On April 7, 2016, a federal grand jury charged Nipper by Superseding Indictment with three counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; two counts of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344(2); and three counts of filing a false tax return, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). Pursuant to her plea agreement, Nipper pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and two counts of filing a false tax return.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Gilliam issued a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $2,029,068 against Nipper and has ordered an April 30, 2018 hearing to determine the amount Nipper will be ordered to pay in restitution. In addition, Judge Gilliam ordered Nipper to serve 36 months of supervised release following her prison term during which time the defendant may not undertake, without prior permission, a position of fiduciary capacity. Nipper currently is released on a bond and has been ordered to self-surrender on or before April 30, 2018, to begin serving her prison term.
Assistant United States Attorney Tom Green is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Noble Hughes and Katie Turner. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the IRS.