ST. LOUIS – A bookkeeper from a St. Louis suburb appeared in federal court on Wednesday and admitted to a multi-year, six-figure embezzlement scheme.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Cora Willard, 47, ran Red Hen Business Services, a bookkeeping, payroll, and money-management assistance company.

In May 2019, Willard was hired by a money management business to handle their books. As a result, Willard was given unfettered access to the company’s bank accounts and financial records.

Willard told the court that between Nov. 29, 2019, and June 10, 2022, she made nearly 100 unauthorized wire transfers from the victim’s bank account to herself, stealing approximately $849,000 in total. She also admitted to directing tax and bill payments to herself, and then sending her client fake balance sheets.

Prosecutors said many of those transfers happened after the victim directed Willard to close that account.

When the victim realized he was missing a vast sum of money, Willard said she blamed one of her employees.

Ultimately, Willard waived her right to an indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Willard faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when she’s sentenced in July. She’ll also be ordered to repay the money she stole and has already agreed to do so.