INDIANAPOLIS - The former bookkeeper for Dukate Fine Remodeling has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison after admitting to stealing thousands over a two-year period. Erica Howard, 42, of Indianapolis, had pleaded guilty to fraud, forgery and theft.

U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler says Howard stole $315,000 by diverting the money from the business to pay off personal credit cards and buy merchandise. Minkler says Howard began siphoning the money just months after being hired. Howard also falsified records, including bank statements, to cover her scheme. The company noticed the discrepancies after a check bounced, which forced the owners to lay off workers and deplete retirement savings to keep the construction company open. 

“Fraud on a small business often impacts much more than the bottom line,” Minkler said.  “It can cost people good jobs, as it did here and breeds distrust, especially when the fraud is perpetrated by a trusted employee. People who exploit a position of trust for purely personal gain will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Howard will also be required to pay full restitution and will serve three years of supervised release after her sentence.