2 Iowa women plead guilty to embezzling nearly $6 million from insurance company Aviva

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2 Iowa women plead guilty to embezzling millions

DES MOINES, Iowa — Two Iowa women pleaded guilty Thursday to federal felony charges that they embezzled nearly $6 million from West Des Moines insurer Aviva USA.

The charges come nearly a year after Phyllis Stevens, 59, was arrested at a Las Vegas hotel. An Aviva employee discovered more than $5.9 million in company funds had been funneled into an Indianapolis bank account held by the couple.

Federal prosecutors in Iowa said both Phyllis Stevens and Marla Stevens, 58, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to file false income tax returns. Phyllis Stevens also pleaded guilty to counts of wire fraud, computer fraud and filing a false income tax return.

Phyllis Stevens admitted stealing the money by making fraudulent entries into the computer system at Aviva. She also admitted to buying real estate and paying large credit card bills with the money, prosecutors said. Marla Stevens admitted she knew about and participated in the scheme.

Last week, William Kutmus, the attorney for Phyllis Stevens, had told The Des Moines Register that Stevens and her partner, Marla Stevens, would enter the guilty pleas on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines.

The women are to be sentenced Jan. 21. The two had been set to go on trial together. The judge had found Phyllis Stevens competent to stand trial despite a defense psychiatrist finding that she has dissociative identity disorder, once known as multiple personality disorder. Her attorney had planned an insanity defense.

Phyllis Stevens, who had been employed as a compensation specialist, was accused of manipulating the company’s computer system using the names of former agents to siphon money into her accounts. She was arrested after traveling to Indianapolis in an attempt to draw money from her account. She later joined Marla Stevens in Las Vegas. The company located the women in Las Vegas and alerted federal authorities.

will not be displayed