HAMMOND — A federal indictment and a plea agreement were entered Nov. 21 for a former office manager at Krol Family Medicine in Wheatfield.
Erica Strutz, according to the indictment, began work as the office manager for the Wheatfield clinic in July 2012. It states she and Lori Krol, a state licensed advanced practice registered nurse, worked together at Jasper County Hospital where Strutz worked in the billing department.
Strutz entered a plea of guilty in an agreement also filed Nov. 21. The charge carries a maximum term of 20 years and/or a fine not to exceed $250,000.
The indictment alleges Strutz began in August 2012 through February 2019, keeping cash payments made by patients instead of depositing them with the checks and credit card payments. It states over the course of those years, she kept nearly $125,000 and deposited only $1,850 in cash during that time.
It also states Strutz gave herself nine bonuses totaling $7,640 and bumped her hourly wage to $24 per hour after given an authorized increase to $20 per hour in 2015.
Other charges include using business and personal credit cards issued to the Krol Family Medicine or Lori Krol making purchases in excess of $52,000. At one point, she is accused of using a Capital One SPARK card in her name and the business’s name at a Menard’s store in Valparaiso, which transmitted the payment through interstate wire communication, thus creating the federal offense of wire fraud. This occurred in July 2016, and the total amount of the purchase was $107.48.
During this period, April 2018 through January 2019, the indictment states Strutz, in an effort to hide her fraud, obtained a series of debt consolidation loans, nine from Kabbage Business and one from Freedom Debt Relief in Krol’s name and the business name in an attempt to pay the credit cards she fraudulently received. The nine debt consolidation loans from Kabbage Business totaled $20,300, and the Freedom Debt Relief loan for $58,962.
Finally, the indictment states Strutz, as part of her duties as office manager, took care of the paperwork for the office health insurance policies, including herself.
In November 2017, she added herself and her husband to the policy, although she wasn’t given permission to include him. He remained on the policy through February 2019. Strutz admitted in her plea agreement the entire policy was paid by the business.
In her plea agreement, Strutz states she used her position as office manager to keep the $124,904 in cash received from patients between August 2012 and February 2019. She said, “I was responsible for preparing the daily bank deposits. I would get the cash, checks and credit card receipts from the previous day and prepare the deposit slip. Between approximately 2014 through February 2019, I simply left all of the cash off the deposit slips and kept the money for my own personal use. I was not authorized to do this.”
She admits to using the credit cards for personal purchases of more than $52,000, and using the credit card at Menard’s in Valparaiso. She also admits to obtaining the consolidation loans.
“I never had permission to obtain any of the loans in the name of Krol Family Medicine. I did this in an attempt to conceal my ongoing fraudulent activity,” the plea agreement states.
The plea states she agreed to pay restitution of nearly $183,300 with an initial payment of $10,000 within 30 days of the plea hearing. All restitution will go to the Krol Family Medicine LLC in Wheatfield.