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Former cellphone company exec gets 2 years for stealing $1M

Former cellphone company exec gets 2 years for stealing $1M


ST. LOUIS — A former cellphone company executive was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for stealing $1 million from his employer.

John J. Koeln, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty in October to one count of wire fraud and agreed to forfeit a lakefront lot near Hillsboro, $241,000 in various ETrade accounts, $354,000 in two credit union accounts, a 2015 Buick Enclave, a 2014 Cadillac Escalade, a 2016 Chaparral jet boat and a boat trailer.

Koeln, 37, was the director of finance for Unlimited Prepaid Distribution, a wholesaler of prepaid phones, SIM cards, airtime and other cellphone products. In May 2015, he set up a bank account in the name of the company’s owner and then repeatedly made unauthorized transfers of money into that account, according to his plea documents. Koeln then transferred some of that money into ETrade accounts and also used portions to buy the Enclave, the boat and trailer and to help buy property, the plea says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin during Thursday’s hearing asked U.S. District Judge Ronnie L. White for a sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison, the recommended range under federal guidelines. She said Koeln had stolen the money over a two-year period in dozens of transactions, costing co-workers their jobs and nearly causing the business to close.

Defense lawyer Justin Gelfand asked for probation, saying Koeln is “more remorseful than words can describe” and explaining that the therapy he needed for mental health issues was more readily available outside of prison.

Koeln told White that he’d broken the trust of family, friends and co-workers by “selfishly stealing” from a company that took a chance on him.

Koeln will have to repay the money.

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