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Courtney Hessler / The Herald-Dispatch Kimberly Dawn Price, 58, of Huntington, appears in Cabell Circuit Court Friday, April 28, 2017, in a case alleging she embezzled more than $1 million from a client.

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.

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