Ex-Controller Who Embezzled $2.8M from Commercial Printing Company Is Sentenced
An ex-controller for Printograph Inc., a Burbank, Calif.-based commercial printing company that does business as GotPrint.com, was sentenced by a U.S. District Judge on Aug. 24 to 87 months in federal prison for embezzling $2.8 million from his former employer and for failing to report the stolen funds as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He was also ordered by the judge to pay $2.9 million in restitution.
Sean Edin Talaee, 63, of Glendale, Calif., initially plead guilty on May 6, 2019, to one count of mail fraud and one count of subscribing to a false income tax return, according to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California. He faced a maximum sentence of 23 years in federal prison.
Talaee worked as the controller overseeing the accounting and tax payments of Printograph between October 2015 and June 2018. During that time period, Printograph made a series of periodic estimated tax payments, which were based on the company’s expected gross income, deductions, and credits for each year. To enable these estimated tax payments, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Talaee brought company checks to Printograph’s owner – who had signing authority for the company’s bank account – for her signature prior to their submission to the IRS.
On at least eight separate occasions, according to his plea agreement, Talaee obtained company checks from Printograph’s owner, but instead inserted his own taxpayer information when filling out the IRS voucher forms that accompanied the estimated tax payments. By using his own taxpayer information, Talaee was able to claim the estimated tax payments for himself and caused the IRS to credit the payments to his own personal account, thereby embezzling the funds from Printograph and effectively laundering the embezzled proceeds through the IRS.
During the course of the scheme, Talaee embezzled $2.8 million from Printograph and falsely claimed estimated tax payments in that amount for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017. He also failed to report the embezzled money as income for these tax years, causing a total tax loss of $740,085, according to court documents.
“(Talaee) embezzled a significant amount of money from Printograph and exposed the company – and its owner personally – to potential tax liability stemming from his theft of the company’s tax payments,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum, as reported by the Los Angeles Daily News. “He did so repeatedly over the course of two years for his own personal gain.”
According to the newspaper, the defendant wrote a letter to the court prior to sentencing, indicating, “My life is broken and I know I only have myself to blame. Nevertheless, I am resolute on making amends and trying to repair my life and the damage I have caused. I know I only have about 10 to 15 years of working life left, and would like to be able to try to put my life back together.”
The paper said Printograph called Talaee's letter a "pity party" as part of its response to the sentencing judge regarding the impact of his actions.
Unbelievably, the Los Angeles Times also reported that Talaee served three years in prison for an earlier embezzlement scheme while serving as controller for another company. The California Franchise Tax Board accused him of embezzling $525,000 in 2004 from a Covina, Calif.-based aerospace subcontractor, where he was employed. In that case, the paper indicated, he plead no contest to grand theft and for filing a false state income tax return.