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A Cache Valley woman has been sentenced to serve 28 months in a federal prison after embezzling over $1.6 million from a local meat processing business.

In January, Christine Gillins, 53, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud connected to the embezzlement of funds from Lower Foods in Richmond. Court records show a civil suit was initially filed with the 1st District Court in July, and the federal criminal case was formally filed around five months months later.

While the embezzlement did have a financial impact as indicated in court documents, attorney Nathan Duncan, who represents Lower Foods, said the effect on the business wasn’t solely pecuniary.

“One of the things that was expressed at her sentencing was just the betrayal that Lower Foods felt,” Duncan said. “It’s a family business … they go to great lengths to take care of their employees and to be good members of the community and to support people.”

Though the criminal case is now resolved, Duncan said some matters in the civil case are still pending.

“It’s been a long process for Lower’s,” Duncan said.

According to documents filed with the United States District Court for the District of Utah, Gillins “devised a scheme to defraud” Lower Foods during the period of her employment from August 2015 to December 2018. While managing accounts payable and receivable for the company, Gillins performed 107 separate transactions disguised as double payments to 14 different vendors, amassing funds over $1.6 million.

Using “transposed invoice numbers,” one payment went to the vendor and another went to Gillins’ personal bank account.

Prosecutors alleged Gillins spent the funds on “many, many things,” including multiple vehicles, an RV, a John Deere tractor, vacations, sporting events and concert tickets, and a home in Mesquite, Nevada.

“The stolen funds took a serious financial toll on Lower and left them with a cash flow problem in 2018,” prosecutors wrote, explaining the company didn’t realize the embezzlement had occurred at the time but were confident the stolen funds were the impetus for the business’s money troubles, “so they took on an additional equipment loan of $2.8 million to make ends meet.”

The court ordered Gillins to remand herself to custody no later than June 25 to serve her sentence in a federal penitentiary. There are no Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities in Utah; documents state Gillins will serve at a particular BOP facility on the west coast “to facilitate family visitation.”

Gillins was also ordered to pay interest-free restitution at a minimum rate of $800 per month upon her release.

“The (pre-sentence investigation) reveals tragic elements to (Gillins’) history and current circumstances,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “And to her credit, (she) did confess her crimes when agents initially confronted her. She further resolved the case through a pre-indictment plea agreement.”

Gillins declined to be interviewed for this story; in an email to The Herald Journal she said she wanted privacy and expressed concern for her family. Her federal defense counsel did not respond to a request for comment.

Court records show Gillins didn’t respond to the civil complaint and Judge Thomas Willmore entered a judgement against Gillins in August. Documents filed with the court state Gillins didn’t respond to the complaint per instruction from legal counsel — her federal criminal case was in motion at the time and her constitutional rights would have been violated.

In a motion to set aside the default judgement, it’s stated officers seized several items from a Smithfield residence, many of which are claimed not to have belonged to Gillins. While showing receipts and papers to the officers, Gillins’ husband “suffered a severe heart attack” due to “stress and excessive force” during the property seizure.

A document filed with the court states no other friends or family members were aware of Gillins’ incident with Lower, and a list enumerating and differentiating the items seized by law enforcement was also provided.

Cache County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Doyle Peck confirmed there was a medical incident during the seizure of property and the man was transported by emergency medical services for treatment.

Peck said the property was seized pursuant to a court order. Often in similar civil matters, Peck said, the property seized to be sold by the Sheriff’s Office to recoup the plaintiff, but matters are usually resolved before the property is actually sold.

“Sheriff sales are not incredibly common in our county,” Peck said.

Peck said the property related to this case is still in possession of the Sheriff’s Office and they are waiting for the “legal fiasco” to be resolved to know what comes next. Peck said “a ton” of items were left at the residence due to wanting descriptions of the property to be seized.

“I hate these things as much as anybody else,” Peck said. “We don’t like to be stuck with their property. We don’t want it, we want it gone, and we want it resolved.”

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