A New Hampshire woman accused of using her former job as a bookkeeper at a drilling business in the town of Norway to write nearly $750,000 in business checks to herself appeared in U.S. District Court in Portland on Wednesday with her attorney to face a bank fraud charge.
Janis Woods, 65, of Conway, New Hampshire, had been issued a summons by the court to appear and was not arrested.
Magistrate Judge John Rich III allowed Woods to remain free on an unsecured $20,000 bond while the case against her remains pending. She was ordered to surrender her passport and report to the U.S. Marshals Service for booking.
Woods said little at the hearing, answering only yes-and-no questions posed to her by the judge as she stood with her retained attorney, William Childs, at her side.
Childs said outside the hearing room afterward that he and his client had no comment on the case against Woods.
According to the criminal complaint and an affidavit by FBI agent Paul Pritchard outlining the accusations against Woods, she had access at her job at Grover Gundrilling to a signature stamp with the name of the company’s chief executive officer. She allegedly used it between January 2009 and January 2012 to write 169 checks from the business account to herself.
Woods is accused of depositing the checks totaling $742,081 into her personal bank account at branches in New Hampshire and then writing about $480,000 worth of checks payable to a restaurant, Fire 21 Pizza, owned by her son in North Conway, New Hampshire.
Grover Gundrilling management discovered the alleged fraud in 2012 and the company president, Chris Hester, confronted Woods on Jan. 31, 2012, by asking her to produce some information and documentation.
“Hester asked Woods for an explanation. Woods said she would have to take a look at it and would get back to Hester, but did not feel well. Woods left work, never returned, and was terminated,” Pritchard wrote in the affidavit.
After Grover Gundrilling officials investigated further and discovered there was much less money in the company bank account than they expected, they contacted local police.
A conviction on the bank fraud charge could result in up to 30 years in federal prison and a nearly $1.4 million fine, court records show.
Rich set a deadline in the case, allowing the U.S. Attorney’s Office 30 days to present its case before a federal grand jury and seek an indictment against Woods.