WEST CHESTER A West Chester woman has been charged with embezzling more than $1 million from her employer by making payments to a bogus company she set up under her daughter's name, the Chester County District Attorney's Office said Monday.
Joyce Hawkins, who was paid a salary of more than $200,000 at Berwyn-based ModSpace, used the stolen money to help support a lavish lifestyle, including a vacation home on the Eastern Shore and a recent trip to Puerto Rico, officials said.
"It seemed like she could get away with it," District Attorney Thomas Hogan said. "That's the thing with these insiders. . . . You give me a burglar? Fine, I'll get locks on my doors and a security system. But you give me a corporate insider, and there is no defense against them."
According to an affidavit, the 59-year-old Hawkins admitted the thefts when interviewed by detectives this month. Hawkins could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Hilary Styer, said Hawkins was looking forward to telling her side of the story in court but declined to comment further.
Hawkins began working at ModSpace, a leading supplier of modular buildings, in 2009 as director of compensation and benefits. Officials said that while in that position, Hawkins created a company called Caring Hearts L.L.C. and began directing payments from ModSpace to the company.
Hogan said Caring Hearts was set up to be a health-care consulting firm that would aid employees in receiving benefits. He said Hawkins used the names of previous employees - individuals who potentially could have been receiving insurance payments from ModSpace - in the payment requests.
Hawkins listed her daughter, Jennifer Evans, as the president of Caring Hearts, and once forged the woman's signature on a tax document, according to the affidavit.
He said the scheme was sophisticated and would not have been caught by an audit.
"The only way to really penetrate that would be if somebody picked up the phone, tracked down one of those old employees - and they're scattered all over the U.S. and world . . . and found, no, they were not using Caring Hearts," Hogan said.
Another employee at the company became suspicious shortly after Hawkins announced in early April that she was resigning to take another position, Hogan said. At the time, she tried to make two final payments to Caring Hearts - for a total of $122,000 - and asked that the checks be rushed and brought directly to her office, officials said.
The employee notified management, which called the District Attorney's Office.
Hogan said detectives would typically take from three to six months on a similar case, but in this one investigators worked for three days before interviewing Hawkins on April 17, her second-to-last day on the job. Hogan said the detectives wanted to interview her before she left the company or was tipped off about the investigation.
She was fired that day, officials said.
In total, Hawkins is accused of stealing $1,035,763 from ModSpace through 24 transactions between 2010 and 2014. According to the affidavit, Hawkins purchased the home in Chestertown, Md., in 2012, taking out a $417,000 mortgage on the property. She told detectives she recently purchased a second boat, valued at $19,000, for the home, the affidavit said.
Hawkins, of Caswallen Drive, has been charged with 194 counts of felony theft, forgery, and related charges.
There was no answer Monday night at Hawkins' home, a brick-faced ranch set on a large, manicured lot in a quiet residential neighborhood.