Tara Durnell, a resident of Great Falls, faced sentencing on December 11th, 2023, following her admission to defrauding two businesses of around $500,000 while employed as a bookkeeper.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich announced that Durnell would serve 25 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Her guilty plea in July encompassed charges of wire fraud and mail fraud.

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Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided over the case and also mandated a restitution payment totaling $492,309.

Durnell was immediately taken into custody following the court's decision.

Great Falls Embezzlement Details

Court records revealed that Durnell began embezzling funds as far back as 1997 from her employer, Kronebusch Electric, Inc. (KEI), a Conrad-based small company where she worked as a bookkeeper.

Her misuse of pre-signed company checks and access to company bank accounts facilitated the diversion of hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover personal credit card debts, car loan payments, and familial debts.

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Durnell exploited the company's accounting software to disguise her illicit activities, camouflaging her transactions as legitimate business expenses.

In total, her embezzlement from KEI amounted to nearly $500,000.

Second Round Of Embezzlement

Durnell ceased employment with KEI but continued her fraudulent activities after securing a position as a bookkeeper at Mitchell’s Crash Repair in Great Falls.

In January 2022, she resumed her unauthorized use of pre-signed checks and access to the business's bank accounts, siphoning approximately $15,491 for personal expenses.

The prosecution was led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Starnes, with investigative efforts conducted by the FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Great Falls Police Department.

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