ATHENS, Georgia – An accountant from the Athens area faces decades of jail sentences and fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars after prosecutors said she cheated on her customers for years to pay for luxury items.

Suzanne Brooks, 42, of Bogart, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in court Thursday.

From 2013 to 2018, Brooks was the accountant for two people who owned both Georgia real estate companies, according to court records. Brooks has been entrusted with access to paper checks and online banking credentials for their business with several FDIC-insured institutions.

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Authorities said Brooks used commercial bank accounts to make multiple payments on personal credit card balances for her and her husband at various credit card companies without the victims’ approval. Brooks used the money to pay for her living expenses, including utilities for her home, insurance payments, restaurants, premium travel, online shopping, retail purchases, jewelry, and inventory for her side business, clothing, with a tiered marketing company, prosecutors said. As their personal credit cards developed, Brooks repeatedly used victims’ funds to withdraw those funds at their discretion and without their approval.

Brooks hid their theft by forging income statements and other files in the accounting software the companies used, leading both victims to believe their businesses were less profitable than they actually were. Brooks also changed bank statements and handled dozens of unauthorized checks.

In total, Brooks caused the victims at least $ 659,106 in intended losses.

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“These small business owners found their family businesses less lucrative, even though their trusted accountant skimmed off some of the profits to pay for their lifestyle,” said Acting US Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Fraud has negative effects that too often lead to the downfall of a small business, place people out of work, and undo years of effort and hard work. Our office, along with our law enforcement partners, will hold fraudsters accountable for their crimes and the damage they cause. “

Brooks is later sentenced.

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The case has been investigated by the FBI.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Lyndie Freeman is pursuing the case.