A now-former HP finance planning manager pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns that follow from the misappropriation of company funds.
According to the US Justice Department, Shelbee Szeto, 30, of Fremont, California, worked at HP Inc from August 2017 through June 2021, first as an executive assistant and then as a finance planning manager.
During that time, she was responsible for paying HP vendors. As described in her indictment, HP issued employees with commercial credit cards called procurement cards, or PCards. Corporate policy said these were not to be used for personal expenses.
“To reconcile a purchase, HP employees were required to approve the purchase using the HP online system, enter a charge description and business justification, and attach a copy of the invoice associated with the payment,” the indictment [PDF] explained.
Szeto was issued multiple PCards and, according to prosecutors, she devised a scheme to make purported vendor payments to financial accounts that she controlled and then used HP’s funds to purchase goods for herself.
“Between approximately April 24, 2018 and April 23, 2021, Szeto knowingly charged approximately $4.8 million dollars in payments from her HP PCards to PayPal, Square, and Stripe merchant accounts under her control and for her personal benefit,” the indictment stated.
To make this spending appear legitimate, Szeto submitted false invoices to HP.
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Szeto managed to make several transactions in the $30,000 to $40,000 range; Square declined to process a payment for $330,000. Asked for supporting paperwork by the payment processor, she is said to have provided false documentation and to have falsely told Square investigators the funds were for marketing work related to a real-estate transaction.
Her bank, First Republic, also questioned the source of her funds, according to the indictment, and the IRS noticed that her 2019 and 2020 tax forms were inaccurate. All told, Szeto is said to have cost HP $5.2m.
The Justice Department said Szeto spent the funds on: a 2020 Tesla sedan; a 2021 Porsche SUV; various bags and purses from Chanel, Dior, Gucci, and Hermes; and an assortment 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 is accepting responsibility and doing her best to make amends.”
Szeto pleaded guilty to five counts: two of wire fraud, two of money laundering, and one of filing a false tax return. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 20, 2022. ®