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The Carlsbad woman charged with embezzling just under $1 million from the Otis domestic water association pleaded guilty last week to the crime.

U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage announced Lori V. Whitaker, 54, of Carlsbad, entered a guilty plea in federal court in Las Cruces to a wire fraud charge. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Whitaker is required to pay $816,630.36 in restitution to her former employer, the Otis Mutual Domestic Water Consumers and Sewage Works Association.

Whitaker also faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment at sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Whitaker was indicted in January and charged with perpetrating a scheme to defraud the Association out of approximately $800,000 over a two-year period. The indictment charged her with 75 counts of wire fraud and alleged she fraudulently transmitted funds by means of wire communications between March 27, 2015, and Feb. 3, 2017. The funds involved in the 75 transactions ranged from $416 to $15,746.64.

According to the indictment, Whitaker executed the embezzlement in two ways. First, she defrauded the Association by using its credit card account for personal purposes unrelated to the Association’s business. To this end, Whitaker repeatedly used the credit card to obtain cash advances and initiate other charges at casinos. Second, she defrauded the Association by paying off credit card balances through frequent, but unauthorized, online transfers from the Association’s payroll account.

“Thank you to our federal partners who worked so hard to help us get some closure for the Eddy County citizens affected by this abuse of their trust and their funds,” said Cage.