PROVIDENCE — A South Kingstown woman was arrested and made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Friday on charges that she forged business checks and stole as much as $400,000 from a Cranston auto dealership where she was an office manager and bookkeeper.
The woman, Michelle Saritelli, 45, appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond and pleaded not guilty to charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. She had been employed at the Stamas Auto and Truck Center.
According to court documents, the owners of Stamas Auto learned last September that its bank accounts had been frozen. They discovered that check ledgers were missing and funds were unaccounted for. Numerous checks had been forged and fraudulently cashed. Cranston police detectives sought the assistance of the FBI, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Most of the missing ledgers were found in a search of Saritelli’s residence on June 7, the authorities said.
Officials said that a forensic audit conducted by the FBI determined that Saritelli, who worked 9½ years at Stamas Auto, until October 2017, wrote and cashed and/or deposited non-payroll checks into her own personal bank accounts; pocketed money from checks written and cashed on a weekly basis to fund the dealership’s petty cash fund; and gave fraudulent checks to her husband for fictitions auto repair services and parts. Officials said she also stole portions of cash payments made by customers to the company.
The audit revealed hundreds of cash deposits and withdrawals from Saritelli’s bank accounts that often coincided with the issuance of fraudulent Stamas business checks and unaccounted for cash. Most of the cash was withdrawn from banks near Saritelli’s South Kingstown residence and at the Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Newport and Lincoln casinos, officials said.
Saritelli was released on unsecured bond and ordered to undergo mental health treatment, according to The Providence Journal. Her lawyer said she was innocent.
According to court documents, Saritelli was convicted May 2004 on charges that she embezzled $30,000 in cash from Hurd Buick in Johnston.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker.