PORTLAND, Ore.—A Hillsboro, Oregon woman was sentenced to federal prison today for engaging in a multi-year scheme to defraud her employer, a nonprofit adoption and surrogacy agency profit operating in Oregon and Washington, and his extended family.
Melodie Ann Eckland, 56, was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay more than $1.6 million in restitution.
“Melodie Eckland used her position of trust with a local adoption agency to steal funds meant to help children around the world find loving families. She further stole thousands of dollars from the estate of a deceased family member in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent her employer from finding out about her scheme. Eckland’s selfishness and greed caused great loss and hardship to many people and drove his employing agency to the brink of insolvency,” said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“Taking advantage of the trust of her employers, friends and family, Ms. Eckland robbed those who trusted her most. In doing so, Ms. Eckland irreparably hurt local families who were trying to do just that – become families,” said Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), Seattle Field Office. “Financial and tax crimes are not without victims, and today’s sentence is justice for Mrs. Eckland’s wanton disregard and robbery from those around her.”
According to court documents, since at least 2011 and until April 2018, Eckland was employed as an accountant for a local adoption and surrogacy agency. His duties included maintaining the agency’s books and records, administering payroll, filing employment tax returns, and paying quarterly employment taxes to the IRS. Eckland also provided financial statements to the agency’s board of directors, but did not have signing authority over the company’s bank account.
Eckland used her position to steal funds from the agency by making unauthorized wire transfers and writing unauthorized checks to herself. Eckland also transferred agency funds as bonuses to his personal bank account. To conceal his scheme, Eckland kept two sets of financial documents. A version, which she gave to the board, showed the accounting books as they should have been kept. The other version showed the actual payments she made to herself during her employment.
To cover the money she had stolen, Eckland applied for loans from at least five loan agencies in the adoption agency’s name, using the agency owners’ names without their permission. Eckland altered the agency’s financial records to give the impression that she owned the agency and was authorized to enter into the loan agreements. As of 2016, Eckland stopped making the agency’s quarterly employment tax payments to the IRS and stopped filing employment tax returns. As a result, the agency owed more than $94,000 in overdue employment taxes.
To further conceal his scheme, Eckland stole funds from a bank account opened in the name of his deceased brother-in-law’s estate. As executor of the estate, Eckland’s husband was tasked with selling his brother’s assets, paying estate bills, and preserving remaining funds for the benefit of his brother’s children. Eckland forged her husband’s signature on unauthorized estate checks and made unauthorized wire transfers of estate funds to herself. She sent some of the more than $123,000 stolen from the estate to the adoption agency’s bank account to cover up her theft of agency funds.
IRS records indicate that Eckland did not report any of the misappropriated funds on her federal tax returns for 2013, 2014, and 2017. In 2015 and 2016, she reported over $550,000 as “other income,” but did not pay the taxes due. . Between 2013 and 2017, Eckland failed to report more than $675,000 in income, resulting in a tax loss of over $345,000. As a result of his scheme, Eckland’s victims – including the adoption agency and its owners, his brother-in-law’s estate and the IRS – suffered a total loss of more than $1.6 million. dollars.
On June 2, 2021, Eckland was charged by criminal intelligence with wire fraud, aggravated impersonation, filing a false tax return, and willfully failing to collect or pay payroll taxes. On June 29, 2021, she pleaded guilty to all four counts.
US Attorney Asphaug and Special Agent in Charge Kressin made the announcement.
This matter was investigated by IRS:CI and the Hillsboro Police Department. He is being prosecuted by Claire M. Fay, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.