Jenks, OK

Oklahoma Woman Sentenced to Prison and Mandated to Pay $1.2 Million in Restitution

Desiree Haros

In a decisive ruling, U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern sentenced Lauren Michelle Owen, 40, of Jenks, to 27 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release. The sentencing comes after Owen pleaded guilty in January to a litany of charges, including bank fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion. The judge additionally mandated Owen to pay restitution exceeding $1.2 million.

Owen's elaborate fraudulent activities spanned over a decade, beginning in 2010 when she was hired as a secretary by her employer. Over time, she ascended to the position of vice president and sole financial officer, gaining access to the company's financial operations. Exploiting this trust, Owen orchestrated a series of unauthorized financial transactions, including writing checks to herself, paying personal credit card bills, and misappropriating wage payments. The total loss to her employer amounted to more than $750,000.

After losing her job, Owen turned to defrauding the Small Business Administration (SBA) in November 2021. In the wake of the CARES Act, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she submitted a falsified loan application on behalf of Platinum Assets, LLC, a company under her control. Despite having a criminal record for embezzlement, Owen lied on the application, claiming no previous criminal charges. The SBA approved the loan, depositing over $384,000 into Owen's account. She misused the funds by purchasing a 2018 Chevrolet Corvette, a 40-foot yacht, and paying off a loan on a 2018 Ford F-250.

Furthermore, court documents revealed Owen's attempt to evade income tax from 2016 to 2020. Failing to report her illegal income from embezzlement, Owen engaged in unauthorized transactions to conceal her earnings. In total, she admitted to owing more than $61,000 in unpaid taxes and agreed to pay an additional $67,800 to the IRS.

U.S. Attorney Clinton Johnson emphasized the severity of Owen's actions, stating, "Lauren Owen engaged in multiple fraudulent schemes, including taking advantage of her employer’s kindness solely to enrich her luxurious lifestyle at the expense of others." Christopher J. Altemus Jr., special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, highlighted the impact on COVID relief funds, noting that Owen's actions diverted money intended to support small businesses during the pandemic.

Owen will remain on bond temporarily and will voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility at a later date. The sentencing and restitution order underscore a strong message that fraudulent schemes will not go unpunished, as echoed by authorities involved in the investigation.

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