Two women who ran a Marina del Rey-based company that provided bill paying and bookkeeping services for a company operated by Tae Bo exercise creator Billy Blanks and his wife have been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for stealing more than $1.1 million.
Rhenee Sharmell Foster, 46, and Demetria Foster Gutierrez, 52, both of Palos Verdes Estates, were sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday in a statement. In addition to the prison term, both were ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution and have been prohibited from working in any capacity in which they would manage or control their employers' funds for a three-year period after their release from prison.
Foster and Gutierrez both pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud and fraudulently using an access device issued to another person.
Federal prosecutors said Foster and Gutierrez from March 2007 through March 2010 made more than 70 unauthorized withdrawals from the bank account of the Blanks' company, BG Star Productions. The women were hired by the Blanks in 2004 and were given access to the BG Star Productions bank account so they could pay the Blanks' personal and company bills. The women used their access to the account to secretly withdraw and transfer funds to pay off more than $1 million in charges they owed on their own American Express cards, prosecutors said.
The women hid their fraud scheme by providing financial summaries that described their unauthorized withdrawals as payments for fake loans and expenses incurred by the Blanks. Prosecutors said Foster and Gutierrez used the stolen funds to pay for expensive clothing, vacations and down payments on several Rang Rovers, among other things.
The case was investigated by Special Agent Bryan Vandenberg of the U.S. Secret Service.