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PROVIDENCE – A former bookkeeper/office manager who admitted to embezzling more than $740,000 from a Rhode Island law firm that employed her, fraudulently collecting nearly $20,000 in temporary disability insurance payments, and filing fraudulent documents when applying for a mortgage from a Rhode Island bank, was sentenced today to five years in federal prison.

According to court documents, Sarah Gaulin, 39, a former employee of the law firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen and Collins (HWAC), devised and executed multiple schemes and forged law firm checks to fraudulently obtain $740,953 in law firm funds.

Gaulin previously admitted to the court that she prepared and cashed HWAC checks made payable to herself, which included the forged signature of a law firm partner; prepared HWAC checks payable to her own creditors; and prepared HWAC checks payable to law firm credit card companies and other third party vendors to pay for personal purchases and expenses, such as her rent, mortgage, automobile lease and repairs, AT&T service, and credit card debts.

Additionally, according to court documents, Gaulin used more than 550 forged HWAC checks to purchase $292,190 worth of gift cards from Staples.

Gaulin also admitted that she submitted fraudulent bank statements to a Rhode Island bank as part of a mortgage application she filed with the bank. Gaulin admitted to submitting personal bank statements reflecting a positive balance when in fact her actual account was routinely overdrawn. Gaulin reflected that among her expenses was rent she paid monthly, when, in fact, she had been using funds she illegally obtained from HWAC to make the payments.

Additionally, as detailed in court documents, from March 26, 2016, to July 23, 2016, and from May 5, 2018, to August 11, 2018, Gaulin fraudulently collected approximately $19,588 in temporary disability insurance payments from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Gaulin claimed she was unable to work due to injury or illness, when, in fact, she remained employed during the time she was collecting the benefits.

On October 13, 2020, Gaulin pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud, and one count each of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

Gaulin was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to 60 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Additionally, Gaulin was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $760,541, to include $740,953 to HWAC and $19,588 to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

Gaulin’s sentence is announced by Acting United States Attorney Richard B, Myrus, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni, and Christina D. Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan.