FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Rogers woman admitted to embezzling nearly $20,000 from a Springdale law firm by intercepting payments from clients and forging court documents to cover her tracks.
Monserrate Morales, 29, pleaded guilty Monday (May 20) in U.S. District Court to one count each of wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
Morales told federal investigators she stole roughly $18,961 by intercepting payments from clients to the McManus Law Firm, where she worked as a receptionist between 2012 and 2018.
Morales would steal cash payments from clients that were intended as legal fees to the firm, according to court documents.
She also forged court documents, bankruptcy documents and, in one case, a federal judge’s signature, to help conceal the scheme from attorneys and clients.
Investigators noted that for one client, Morales took their money despite no legal work taking place. Morales told the client their file was “almost done” and should be filed “this month once funds are paid i(n) full,” according to court documents.
During her six years at the law firm, Morales also forged a Benton County circuit judge’s divorce decree, intercepted child support payments and forged bankruptcy documents for potential clients.
Morales is free on a $5,000 bond but is restricted to traveling within Benton, Madison and Washington counties. She also had to turn over her passport.
She faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set.
Morales is charged for the same offenses in Washington County Circuit Court, where she faces felony counts of first-degree forgery, one count of second-degree forgery, theft of property and tampering with physical evidence.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a hearing is set for July 15.