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Wednesday, 17 February 2016 22:48

Woman Pleads Guilty In $1M Fraud of Manchester, NH Auto Repair Shop

A former part-time bookkeeper for a Manchester auto repair shop has pleaded guilty to mail fraud, forging nearly 150 checks totaling more than $1 million over more than four years, according to prosecutors.

Suzan Harbinson, 52, of Goffstown used some of the stolen money to fund two family-owned martial arts schools and to pay personal credit cards, according to court records.

Harbinson worked at Henry’s Collision Center and concealed her forgery by falsely inflating the company’s business expenses in monthly reports she prepared for the shop’s owner, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“It’s been my experience over the years, particularly smaller businesses really trust their employees,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith said February 16. “It’s unfortunate that trust gets abused.”

Harbinson faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a substantial fine after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud. Feith said restitution is mandatory in such cases.

Feith said no specific sentence has been negotiated. Harbinson’s sentencing is set for May 23.

From 2010 to early 2015, Harbinson forged a company owner’s signature on 145 checks drawn on the company’s operating account totaling $1,005,754.83, prosecutors said.

Harbinson, according to prosecutors, forged three additional checks totaling $2,245 made out to “cash” that she used for her personal benefit.

A woman at Henry’s Collision Center called it “a private matter” and would not comment further.

Harbinson’s attorney, Michael Craig, didn’t return a phone message requesting comment.

According to court papers, Harbinson and her husband owned and managed a martial arts school, ATA Martial Arts of Southern New Hampshire in Bedford. Another martial arts school, ATA of Derry, was owned and managed by another family member.

Suzan Harbinson deposited the forged checks into ATA Bedford’s checking account and transferred some of the stolen money to ATA Derry’s checking account, according to court papers. She also used some of the money to make payments on her personal credit cards and pay some of the schools’ operating expenses by sending checks by way of the U.S. Postal Service to the schools’ creditors, according to court records.

“A million dollars is a significant amount of money,” Feith said. “That would be on the higher end of cases we see here.”

Thank you to The New Hampshire Union Leader for permission to reprint this article.

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