Ms. Ray, also known as Georgia Engelhart, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the six counts, said Jack Gillund, a San Francisco-based spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, in a statement based on the plea bargain.
Ms. Ray, now a resident of Antioch, kept the books for a San Carlos-based group of family businesses, owned by Don and Carole Tanklage of San Carlos, according to the Associated Press. Ms. Ray had "unfettered access" to the bank accounts of those businesses, the DOJ statement said.
She was charged on July 8 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Ms. Ray's defense attorney, Robert Carey of the Palo Alto firm Carey & Carey, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Vacations and gambling
Ms. Ray, 67, started embezzling in the 1980s and by 2004 was redirecting to her own benefit hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, the statement said.
Her methods, according to the DOJ statement, included:
• Writing company checks to herself and to her personal credit cards, which she used for everyday expenses as well as cash advances and "expensive vacations and regular gambling at casinos."
• After the company owner had signed her payroll check, sometimes altering the leftmost digit, such as by changing the figure 1 in $1,000 to a 4 or a 7.
• Forging the owner's signature until, in 2007, the owner provided her a signature stamp, which Ms. Ray then used in falsifying business checks for her personal gain.
• Altering bookkeeping, records and bank statements "almost on a daily basis" to conceal her activities, including on at least three occasions, creating false company-to-company transfers.
Ms. Ray admitted to embezzling $4.7 million between 1998 and May 2009, the statement said.
In a criminal indictment by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Moore, chief of the Tax Division, Ms. Ray is said to have reported a total income tax liability of $84,369 for herself and her spouse between 2004 and 2009, but owes an additional $782,600 in unpaid back taxes.
The criminal investigation arm of the Internal Revenue Service conducted the probe that led to the prosecution, the DOJ statement said.