ST. LOUIS — A Maryland Heights woman who stole more than $200,000 from her employer to help her “fiancé,” who was really a Nigerian scammer, was sentenced Friday to 366 days in prison and ordered to repay the money.
Wende Anne Terrill, 49, was found guilty of a felony wire fraud charge by a jury in U.S. District Court in March. At her sentencing hearing Friday, Terrill did not speak.
Her lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.
Prosecutors say that from January 27, 2017, to March 31, 2017, Terrill wrote five-figure checks and sent one wire transfer from her employer, Midwest Petroleum, to other accounts. Terrill was the company controller, and the accounts were associated with companies with which Midwest was not doing business, court documents show.
The money was almost immediately transferred overseas. Several links in the chain of money transfers had Nigerian connections, prosecutors have said in court documents.
Terrill hid her theft by manipulating accounting records, prosecutors have said, but her boss became suspicious about a $37,800 wire transfer. She was indicted in October 2017.
After Terrill left the company, a Midwest vice president discovered emails between Terrill and others about her “fiancé,” Santino Gallo, who was supposedly an oil rig worker with outstanding debts. Prosecutors said Terrill was the victim of a Nigerian romance fraud scheme, in which scammers create fake online profiles, develop a romantic relationship with their victims, then make a series of requests or demands for money until the victim’s finances are exhausted.
Last week, officials accused 80 people, most from Nigeria, with involvement in a conspiracy to steal, or attempt to steal, at least $40 million through a variety of fraud schemes.
Midwest Petroleum runs more than 50 gas and convenience food stores in Missouri and Illinois, according to its website.