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ST. LOUIS – A former bookkeeper of a St. Louis accounting firm has been sentenced to almost four years in prison for stealing more than half a million dollars from a trust fund.

Paula Smith, 69, O’Fallon, previously pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. On Jan. 5, she was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison by United States District Court Judge Matthew T. Schelp, according to a press release.

Smith was a bookkeeper at an accounting firm that managed D.E.W. Trust, which was once valued at $8.6 million and had more than 20 beneficiaries, including 12 St. Louis area charities. She wrote several checks from D.E.W. Trust to herself, totaling $670,000 between Oct. 2013 and June 2018, the press release states.

To hide her scheme, Smith labeled the checks as advance payments to a trustee and as payments to a vendor. She used the money to buy herself a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado K1500 and a 2018 Keystone Hornet Hideout 26RLS Travel Trailer, according to the press release.

“People who think they can get away with embezzling money should realize the crime eventually catches up with them like it did with Paula Smith,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Spencer Evans of the FBI St. Louis Division. “While Smith enriched herself in the short term, she will now pay a much higher price with a sentence of almost 4 years in federal prison.”

The case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Montgomery Bank Anti-Money Laundering Team.