A federal grand jury in Madison has indicted a Texas woman on multiple counts of wire fraud and tax evasion for a scheme that defrauded a Wisconsin business out of more than $3.4 million between 2016 and 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
The indictment against Sarah Doherty, also known as Sarah McKibbin, 33, of Azle, Texas, charges her with 11 counts of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion.
The indictment does not state the name or location of the business that was allegedly defrauded, but a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicates the matter was investigated by federal authorities, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Fall River Police Department.
According to the indictment, Doherty was hired by the owner of the business to provide services for the business. The indictment doesn’t state what those services were. It states she and the owner had met in about 2009, bonded over a love of hunting and became close personal friends.
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In 2015, the indictment states, Doherty formed an S-corporation called Faith Outdoor Consulting LLC to facilitate the relationship with the business.
Doherty ingratiated herself with the business owner and gained access to his personal finances, the indictment states, and used her access to the financial information of the business and its owners to defraud the business out of about $3.43 million. She told bookkeepers for the business and its outside accountant that the money was spent on business expenses, when she really used the money for personal expenses, according to the indictment.
Doherty also created fictitious identities that she used to manipulate the man into sending money to her, the indictment states.
As evidence of wire fraud, the indictment includes redacted summaries of some email messages between the man and Doherty between 2018 and 2020, including some in which she used a fictitious email account to communicate with him. In one, the man promised to pay money to Doherty, who was using a fictitious name. In other messages, she claims money she stole from the business was a business expense, according to the indictment.
In an email in September 2020, the victim of the scheme tells Doherty how his business desperately needed the money he had invested with a fictitious person.
The indictment also alleges Doherty submitted federal tax returns for 2017 through 2020 that “substantially underestimated” her income for each of those years.
According to federal court records, Doherty has filed for bankruptcy multiple times, including twice in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin as Sarah Burkeland and Sarah Gill, and also more recently in Colorado and Texas. Court records indicate she formerly lived in Wisconsin, including in Rio, Sun Prairie and Fall River.
If convicted, each count of wire fraud carries up to 20 years in prison, and each tax evasion count carries up to five years, though maximum sentences would be unlikely under advisory federal sentencing guidelines.