ST. LOUIS – A bookkeeper from a St. Louis suburb was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday after admitting 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, a money management business hired Willard to handle its 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 blamed one of her employees.

In April 2023, Willard waived her right to an indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Willard to one year and one year in federal prison. She was also ordered to repay the embezzled funds. Willard repaid $100,000 at the time of her sentencing.