Woman Who Stole Nearly $13m From Matthews International Gets 8-Plus Years in Prison

October 2, 2017
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Originally Published on Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Robinson woman who pulled off the largest embezzlement scheme in Western Pennsylvania history, and maybe the entire state, is headed to federal prison for more than eight years.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Thursday imposed a term of 100 months on Cynthia Mills, 56, who admitted she stole nearly $13 million from North Shore-based Matthews International Corp. over 16 years.

The prison term includes extra time for hiding assets from the government — mostly jewelry and other valuables — after her initial guilty plea in March.

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“Certainly this case involves a long-term, sophisticated scheme of deception. It’s the largest scheme of embezzlement seen in this court,” said the judge. “It was thoughtful, deliberate conduct.”

Mills, who worked as cashier and treasury specialist at Matthews for many years, will forfeit some $12.9 million as part of her sentence.

Cynthia Mills, 56, admitted to stealing nearly $13 million from her employer, North Shore-based Matthews International Corp. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

Many of the assets she owned with her husband, including homes, cars and boats, have already been auctioned. Future earnings will be turned over to the government to return to Matthews.

Listing of properties and items forfeited as proceeds of stolen money:

Forfeiture List Exhibit A (PDF)
Forfeiture List Exhibit A (Text)

Mills said she feels remorse and explained that she was addicted to gambling.

“I am profoundly sorry for what I’ve done,” she said.

But she said she was also angry at Matthews because she felt unappreciated there. She said she was passed over for raises and promotions.

“I felt because I was a woman I didn’t belong,” she said.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Mills led a life of deception. She had worked at Matthews since 1981. And contrary to her assertions, she had received promotions and raises, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul Desai.

“The company completely trusted her,” he said. “She utilized that trust to deceive them.”

He said she also lied to the company in a previous investigation, lied to federal agents in this one and hid assets even after pleading guilty, requiring a second plea negotiation. He said that while Mills did gamble away some of the money at local casinos, the thefts began long before the casinos were even built.

“The theft didn’t start with gambling,” Mr. Desai said. “The theft started with greed.”

Matthews, a conglomerate best known for making funeral products, had representatives in court but the company declined comment.

Prosecutors said Mills stole the money systematically between 1999 and 2015. She was responsible for depositing checks and recording transactions into the general ledger at Matthews.

She siphoned off the funds incrementally and moved money into a bank account she created for a shell company called Designs by Cindy. She then doctored Matthews’ invoices and bank statements to cover her tracks.

The case also involves her estranged husband, Gary Mills. He is under indictment on tax charges in connection with the scheme. That case is pending.

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