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

She spent $1.8 million on jet charters alone.

June 20, 2012, 10:01 AM

June 20, 2012— -- 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.

But, that's not all. According to information provided to the court, the shopping list was long and extravagant. Smith paid a $1.8 million worth of charges to American Express for private jet charters; $715,000 for commercial airfare; $600,000 for lodging, cruise charges and misc. travel expenses; $32,500 for a luncheon for six people prepared by Food Network star Ina Garten at her barn in East Hampton, NY; $5,000 for "The Vatican Package," which included Mass in Papal Audience with VIP seating, plus airfare for four, VIP tour of the Vatican Museum with a private tour guide, and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel alone with family before it is open to the public; and $2,500 for a Phantom of the $2,500 for a Phantom of the Opera experience, including costume fitting, wig fitting, escorted on-stage during the Hannibal Opera sequence, and four seats for the performance; $10,000 for a Ralph Lauren showroom tour and suit; $52, 500 for six club level tickets to the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas; $5,600 for autographed first America edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with signed book plates by J.K. Rowling, $11,100 dinner with Kevin Spacey after his performance in Richard III.

The 58-year-old, who pled guilty, was hoping for a light sentence, based on reports.

Based on records obtained by ABC News, United States Attorney said Smith "devised, and intended to devise, a scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money and property by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, well knowing at the time that the pretenses and promises were false and fraudulent when made."

Only 1/10 of the amount is expected to be recovered. Authorities said she covered up the thefts with a series of fake transactions as well as listing phantom cars in inventory so they could be recorded as assets.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh, "the office will be able to recoup a portion of the financial loss. The amount stated in Court was $1 million."

Patricia Smith will begin serving her sentence in July.