The office of U.S. Attorney said on Tuesday that Selma Morales, 53, of Lubbock pleaded guilty to wire fraud. She was indicted in July by a federal grand jury in Albuquerque.
Morales admitted that she defrauded a Lubbock-based law firm out of more than $550,000. The law firm also had offices in Albuquerque, Hobbs and Las Cruces.
“Morales pled guilty to the indictment and admitted abusing her position as a trusted, high-level employee who managed the law firm’s day-to-day finances,” an official statement from the prosecution said.
Morales admitted using the law firm’s credit cards personal expenses, “including meals, groceries, car repairs, car and home insurance, property taxes, funeral expenses for a relative, clothing, sports apparel and equipment, designer products, jewelry, and plastic surgery.”
Official records said she used the credit cards for NBA playoff tickets, apartment rent, and college tuition.
The plea agreement recommends a prison sentence of no more than two years. Morales agreed to pay back the law firm as part of the plea agreement.
The office of U.S. Attorney issued the following statement:
Selma Morales, 53, of Lubbock, Tex., pleaded guilty in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a wire fraud charge arising from a scheme that defrauded her employer of more than $550,000. The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque division of the FBI.
A federal grand jury charged Morales with committing wire fraud in an indictment filed on July 27, 2017. According to the indictment, from May 2009 through May 2015, Morales engaged in a scheme to defraud her employer, a law firm headquartered in Lubbock with offices in Albuquerque, Hobbs and Las Cruces, N.M., of more than $550,000, which she used for unauthorized personal charges and expenditures. At the time, Morales was the law firm’s financial manager and bookkeeper.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Morales pled guilty to the indictment and admitted abusing her position as a trusted, high-level employee who managed the law firm’s day-to-day finances. In her plea agreement, Morales acknowledged having access to the law firm’s bank accounts and credit cards and traveling to the firm’s locations in Albuquerque, Hobbs and Las Cruces in connection with her employment. Morales admitted using four of the law firm’s credit cards to pay for personal expenses, including meals, groceries, car repairs, car and home insurance, property taxes, funeral expenses for a relative, clothing, sports apparel and equipment, designer products, jewelry, and plastic surgery. Morales also used the law firm’s credit cards to pay for family vacations and travel (including trips to San Francisco, Calif., Seattle, Wash., and Las Vegas, Nev.), entertainment (including season tickets to college athletic events, concerts and NBA playoff tickets), apartment rental payments, and college tuition payments. Morales admitted using her position as well as information about her employer to conceal her fraudulent activity.
The plea agreement recommends that Morales be sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed 24 months. It also requires that Morales make restitution to her former employer. Morales remains on conditions of release pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret M. Vierbuchen.