St. Louis woman indicted for swindling Webster University, Chinese government agency

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – A 61-year-old former Webster University employee was indicted Wednesday for allegedly embezzling nearly $400,000 from a joint educational venture between the university and a culture agency for the Chinese government.

According to an indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney of Eastern Missouri’s Office, Deborah Pierce was named the director of Webster University’s Confucius Institute and entrusted to oversee funding for the group, which came from both the university and the People’s Republic of China.

The indictment alleges Pierce opened a private bank account in September 2013 and funneled money from the Confucius Institute through it. She diverted more than $380,000 to herself and used the money to pay off personal bills and those of other family members.

Prosecutors said the scheme went on from September 2013 to June 2016.

Pierce was charged with one count of mail fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000. Restitution will also be mandatory.