Law firm’s former bookkeeper pleads guilty to embezzlement

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Felicia Menge Kelley
Felicia Menge Kelley

A Wilmington woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling from a local law firm where she worked as its office manager and bookkeeper.

Felicia Menge Kelley, 44, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in New Hanover County Superior Court to one count of embezzling greater than $100,000, according to District Attorney Ben David. Kelley was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson to 82-111 months in the N.C. Department of Corrections.

In November 2015, partners of the law firm Yow, Fox & Mannen, LLP contacted the Wilmington Police Department when they noticed a discrepancy in their trust account. Detectives, in an effort to locate the missing funds, found other financial discrepancies that were ultimately linked to Kelley, who at the time was the law firm’s office manager and bookkeeper, David said.

“These discrepancies included $10,000 in missing cash and checks written to Kelley’s husband, juvenile son and boyfriend,” David said. “The checks had previously gone unnoticed because Kelley coded the checks as legitimate business expenditures for the law firm.”

A forensic audit revealed a total loss of more than $153,000, David said. Kelley was arrested and served with warrants in the case while she was in Colorado. She was extradited to face the charges in New Hanover County in December 2015.

Kelley had also worked for other law firms in the Jacksonville area, and was previously convicted of a lower-class embezzlement charge in Onslow County on Jan. 11, 2006, according to David. She was also convicted of misdemeanor embezzlement in Virginia and has worthless check convictions in North Carolina.

In Virginia, Kelley was previously convicted of forgery, misdemeanor embezzlement, misdemeanor attempt to obtain property by false pretense, misdemeanor larceny and uttering a credit card. Her most recent conviction in Virginia was in July 1995 on the uttering credit card charge.

In North Carolina, Kelley was convicted of 11 separate worthless check charges between 1996 and 2016, in four different counties. Her most recent worthless check conviction was in Pamlico County in January.

Kelley’s previous convictions were under a different name – Felicia Dawn Menge – and were not identified in her employer’s background check, David said.

“This case was handled by the Financial Crimes Division of the Conference of District Attorneys, which is an elite group of prosecutors. We rely upon this division in complex, multi-jurisdictional, and conflicts cases. Today’s result once again demonstrates our joint commitment to hold white collar criminals fully responsible under the law,” David said about Tuesday’s plea.

A civil judgment will be entered against Kelley for more than $145,000 in restitution, David said.