HUNTINGTON — A former Huntington accountant has been sentenced to serve less than three years in federal prison after being accused of embezzling over $1 million from a client's account.
Kimberly Dawn Price, also known as Kimberly Swan, 59, was sentenced to serve 33 months for bank fraud committed during her time as a staff accountant at the Huntington-based firm Hess, Stewart and Campbell PLLC.
"It's simple. Price was a thief who stole from an employer that implicitly trusted her," U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said Monday following sentencing. "And now she's being held accountable."
Price previously pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud in June and had faced a maximum of 80 years in federal prison and a $3 million fine.
Price was originally arrested in January 2016 and charged with more than 900 counts of embezzlement, forgery and uttering in Cabell County after the executor in charge of the trust for Elizabeth Caldwell, a Huntington woman who died in the fall of 2015, went to the West Virginia State Police after noticing the account was about $1 million lower than expected.
The charges against Price were dropped in Cabell Circuit Court after federal authorities showed interest in the case. A federal indictment was returned in March charging her with 28 counts of bank fraud.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court, Price "paid off (a) vehicle, went on trips, helped
her son start a business, paid off her (son's) student loans, supported her boyfriend and supported her gambling habit."
Investigators said Price had spread out the money over several bank accounts, including those of her son and boyfriend to hide her misdeeds.
According to the federal indictment, from 2009 to 2015 Price committed bank fraud by writing unauthorized checks from accounts of Standard Leasing Inc., Pharmacy Associates Inc., The Hewitt Trust and the Caldwell Trust, — writing them out to herself or cash.
The indictment also alleges Price fraudulently transferred funds from the Pharmacy Associates and Arc M. and Ruth C. Hewitt Trust accounts to the Caldwell Trust to cover amounts previously fraudulently obtained from the account.
The indictment specifically names 28 allegedly unauthorized checks amounting to $83,588.76.
From October 2009 to September 2010, Price is accused of writing six fraudulent checks worth $29,479.94 from the Standard Leasing account. From June to September 2015, the defendant is accused of cashing 20 checks amounting to $47,600 from the Caldwell Trust bank account. Two checks amounting to $6,508.82 were cashed in October 2015 from the Pharmacy Associates bank account by the defendant, the indictment says.
Price was denounced by HSC, which said the firm had discovered the misdeeds after an internal investigation.
A letter written to the court seeking leniency in her sentencing, filed by Price's attorney Wesley Page, said the money was taken due to her gambling addiction. After losing her job, she worked at a gas station for about a year, but has since not worked and now receives Social Security spousal benefits after the death of her husband. Page said she gambled away "or otherwise lost" her savings and lives in subsidized housing in Huntington.
Page said Price has a history of physical and mental health problems that would worsen should she be sentenced to prison. She also has no family locally to support her and would have to move her belongings from her apartment into storage, which would be a hardship on her.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police led the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McVey handled the prosecution. U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler @HesslerHD at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter.
HUNTINGTON — An American World War I soldier's gun and medals left in a safe deposit box were returned to his son on Monday thanks to the West Virginia Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division.
David McKee, 75, of Huntington, said he was shocked to find out his father, Mason Shelby McKee, had taken the gun, medals and other items to a Huntington bank's safe deposit box department for safekeeping. After Mason McKee died in the early 1970s, the items remained unclaimed and eventually ended up in the custody of the state Treasury.
"Until I was contacted by the West Virginia Treasurer's Office, I had forgot all about dad's gun and medals,"
David McKee said. "I vaguely remember something about dad taking them to a bank, but I had forgotten all about it over the years."
West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue presented the gun and some medals left behind in the box to McKee in a ceremony at his home on Thomas Avenue in Huntington. Some other box contents already had been auctioned, generating more than $400, which Perdue also presented to David McKee.
The safe deposit box also included Mason McKee's World War I victory medal, chronicling the three battles in which he fought; his sharpshooter medal; and his dog tags, which were in the form of a bracelet then.
David McKee says his father, like most World War I veterans, didn't like to talk about the violence of the World War I trenches, which came to epitomize the 1914-18 conflict. In hunting trip cabins and around the house, David McKee said he listened as his father occasionally reminisced with a war buddy.
McKee said the story that stood out the most was the one about his father and a German soldier engaged in one of the life-or-death struggles in the trenches in France.
"I remember him telling that they were being bombarded by the Germans all night and then they would storm the trenches in the day time, so they were not able to sleep much," he recalled. "One day he found himself in a fight to the death with a German soldier."
He said the German soldier had seriously wounded his father with a bayonet.
"He stabbed him in the stomach and it went all the way through him, front to back, but it must have missed vital organs," David McKee said.
He said he recalls his father saying he dropped to his knees in the Argonne Forest, with the tree canopy looming overhead.
"He had dropped his Springfield (firearm) so the only thing he had on him was this flare pistol," David McKee said. "He pulled the pistol out, put it to the guy's chest and pulled. Sulfur burns quite hot, so he just stood there and watched that German burn."
Perdue said the Treasurer's Office had published McKee's name in its list of unclaimed property owners, to no response. Sensing the historical nature of the gun, Perdue says the staff held onto it for as long as it could and could not bear auctioning it off.
"We're thrilled to reunite Mr. McKee with his father's gun and the proceeds from the box," Perdue said. "There are certain types of property I especially enjoy returning to our residents. It's hard to put a price on emotionally meaningful items. The war heroism behind this particular flare gun is harrowing, but not unexpected in that awful war. Thank God for Mason McKee and his succeeding band of soldiers who have sacrificed in ways we can't imagine."
David McKee added some of his past came flooding back to him when he found out he would be getting the gun back. He remembered that his father had altered the gun from its original flare gun format.
"He had a sleeve inserted inside the large circumference barrel, to enable standard ammunition to be fired. The outside barrel approximates a .45 Magnum or .410 shotgun," he said.
McKee said he is not sure what he will do with his father's gun and medals, but he is glad the state Treasurer's Office worked so hard to get them back to where they belong.
"Some things are worth more than money," he said. "This means a lot to me because I don't have anything left of my dad. My brother's the only family left and he has dementia. So yeah, getting this back means something."
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/Fred-PaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.
US NEWS & WORLD REPORT'S 'BEST COLLEGES'
HUNTINGTON — For the first time, U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" rankings has recognized Marshall University among the nation's top higher education institutions.
The magazine's 2020 edition, released Monday, placed Marshall among the best 381 schools in the top tier "National Universities" category. Altogether, the magazine ranked about 1,400 institutions.
This marks the first time Marshall has been listed in the "National Universities" category — a direct result of the university's recent elevation to the R2, or Doctoral University: High Research Activity category by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
The publication also ranked Marshall's Brad D. Smith Schools of Business among the country's "Best Undergraduate Business Programs" and ranked the university's engineering program at No. 110 in the country.
"We are certainly gratified that U.S. News & World Report has designated Marshall University among the top tier universities in the country," President Jerry Gilbert said in a release. "It is wonderful to see our university recognized nationally as a student-centered, public research institution committed to academic excellence, research, student success, and accessible and affordable higher education."
The "National Universities" category, according to U.S. News & World Report, includes schools that offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and doctoral programs, and are committed to conducting groundbreaking research. The leaders in the category include such respected institutions as Princeton, Harvard and Columbia universities.
West Virginia University, No. 228, and the University of Charleston were also ranked among "national universities." UC and Marshall were listed in the range of No. 293-381.
U.S. News & World Report also recognized Marshall with the No. 147 position in the country in the "Social Mobility" category— a measure of how successful a school is at enrolling and graduating students who come from low-income households. Marshall is West Virginia's only research university to be ranked in this category.
Jaime R. Taylor, Marshall's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said he is particularly pleased with the Social Mobility ranking.
"With 75 percent of our students coming from West Virginia, Marshall has always provided native students with affordable access to a college education and graduated them into well-paying jobs," Taylor said in a release. "This ranking helps validate that we are serving our talented students particularly well by helping them elevate their socioeconomic status and, in turn, strengthen their communities."
U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings compare colleges and universities from across the U.S., using widely accepted indicators of quality that include average ACT/SAT scores of admitted students, graduation and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, financial resources and alumni giving rate.