A Washington, D.C., woman who became known as a “fairy godmother” to military brides has pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from her former, nonprofit employer.
For the past six years, Ephonia Green has been outfitting hundreds of military brides without charge from her Maryland shop, Couture Miss Bridal & Formal, operated under her company Fabulous Concepts Inc., according to the FBI.
“They give to us, and, you know, when you’re getting married … that’s that dream,” Green told DC Spotlight last year. We “just (want) to help with some of the expense and the cost.”
But as The Washington Post reported Monday, Green likely would have been able to afford the nearly 300 dresses she gave away over the years to military brides because she was found to have stolen $5.1 million from the Association of American Medical Colleges, where she had previously worked as an administrative assistant for $56,000 per year.
“This part-time wedding planner created bogus businesses and phony bank accounts to defraud her nonprofit employer out of more than $5 million,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “Her lucrative and long-running scheme came crashing down when her employer discovered her deception and informed law enforcement. She now faces years in prison as a result of the millions she stole for her own self-indulgence that were initially intended to benefit educational programs.”
Here’s how the FBI’s news release described Green’s scheme:
From July 15, 2005 through July 1, 2013, Green created and submitted false invoices to the Association of American Medical Colleges in the name of three entities—The Brookings Institution, FCI, and the University Health System Consortium, also known as UHC. In doing so, she was seeking payment for services that were never provided and without the association’s knowledge that Green would be the actual recipient of the payments.
Through this fraudulent scheme, Green embezzled approximately $5.1 million from her employer. Although the association received federal program funds each calendar year, none of the money that was embezzled came from federal program funds.
The Brookings Institution is a private, non-profit policy organization based in Washington, D.C., and UHC is an alliance of academic medical centers and hospitals. Green is not affiliated with either entity. Green’s bridal shop, FCI, was never entitled to receive any money from the association. For the false invoices in the name of The Brookings Institution and UHC, Green registered similar trade names with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation and then opened bank accounts in those names.
Green pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions in U.S. district court Monday.
“Today, Ms. Green admitted her participation in a scheme to defraud her employer for her own personal gain,” Valerie Parlave, administrative director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement. “The FBI remains committed to investigating those who hide behind financial fraud schemes and to working to protect employers from the damages caused by these deceptive scams.”
Green will appear in court again for sentencing Feb. 28.