Former R.I. law firm employee to plead guilty to federal fraud, identity theft charges

PROVIDENCE – A former bookkeeper and office manager for a Rhode Island law firm will plead guilty to federal charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island Aaron L. Weisman’s Office.

Sarah Gaulin filed a plea agreement Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence after accusations of embezzling more than $740,000 from her former employer, Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins, a personal injury law firm with offices in Providence and North Kingstown. Gaulin also allegedly collected nearly $20,000 in temporary disability insurance payments.

The plea agreement details how Gaulin wrote and cashed company checks to pay herself and her creditors, forging the signature of a law firm partner on the checks. She also wrote company checks charging law firm credit cards for her personal purchases. Over a seven-year period from January 2012 to May 2019, she is alleged to have defrauded the company of more than $740,000.

Gaulin also allegedly submitted fraudulent bank statements as part of a mortgage application filed with a Rhode Island bank in which she showed a positive balance in her personal bank account when it was actually overdrawn. The application also listed monthly rent as among her personal expenses when she was using illegal company money to pay rent.

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In a third scheme, Gaulin is alleged to have collected nearly $20,000 in temporary disability insurance payments from the R.I. Department of Labor and Training during two separate periods, in 2016 and 2018, claiming she was unable to work when she was still employed.

Under the plea agreement, Gaulin will plead guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count each of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. The combined maximum penalty includes an 82-year prison sentence and $2.5 million fine, according to the plea document.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan.