High-Flying Auto Dealer Employee Steals $10M For Luxuries

PHOTO: Patricia Smith pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge, May 9, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA.
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Patricia Smith, the former controller of an auto dealership in Pennsylvania, is headed to jail after embezzling $10 million from her former boss in a stunning case of a trusted employee looting the business then squandering the cash on luxuries.

Smith, who worked at Baierl Acura located in Wexford, Pa., an upper-middle class suburb of Pittsburgh, was convicted of systematically stealing for seven years--some $4,000 a day on average--for private jet travel, special trips to the theatre, fancy clothes and other goods, according to the court.

A costume fitting on Broadway? Check. Super Bowl Tickets? Check. There were even trips to the Vatican using stolen money. Smith spared no expense for herself or her family on the company's dime, according to reports from court. The jet charters alone totaled $1.8 million for the high-flying bookkeeper, who officially made about $50,000 a year from the dealership.

According to Shannon Pierre, of ABC Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE, who reported on the story from court, Smith's reason for her crime spree was she felt like a "horrible daughter, wife, mother and friend" and the gifts were a way to "earn their love" because she wanted to see "what happiness looks like."

An attorney for Smith did not return our request for comment. News reports indicated that Smith told her family and friends she got rich investing in airline stock.

Now, the woman nearing retirement age must serve 78 months in prison, three years of probation, and pay restitution of $10,349,569.14 for the fortune she obtained by making more than 800 money transfers from the Baierl Acura's coffers to her personal accounts.

"We're glad that justice has been served and this matter is now behind us. Despite the amount of funds taken over time, there were no adverse impacts to our daily operations. Our business is doing well and we have adopted stronger measures to prevent such a crime from ever occurring again," Lee Baierl, CEO of Baierl Automotives said in a statement to ABC News.

The scheming employee was able to electronically transfer funds from the company's online account to her own personal account and use the funds to buy four homes, 10 vehicles, Louis Vuitton luggage, jewelry, $30,000 in pre-paid travel funds and stow away more than $20,000 in savings, court records show.

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