SALT LAKE CITY — A Sandy man accused of embezzling more than $1 million from his employer has been sentenced to spend six years in a federal prison.
Bruce McKean Strong, 49, was sentenced Wednesday after federal prosecutors argued he should serve a lengthy sentence after failing to accept responsibility for years of criminal behavior.
"For nine years, Mr. Strong embezzled more money from his employer than most Americans made through their honest hard work. The embezzlement of over $1 million, repeatedly and purposefully carried out over a period of years warranted a significant period of incarceration," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Strong pleaded guilty in August to two counts of mail fraud and four counts of tax evasion.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ordered Strong to pay more than $900,000 in restitution to his former employer, Sonic Plastics LLC, and nearly $156,000 more to the IRS. After his incarceration, Strong must complete five additional years of court supervision.
Strong is accused of billing Sonic Plastics for materials he never supplied, with checks sent to his own company's mailbox, Grand Design LLC. Strong then deposited the money into Grand Design's bank account, which an indictment alleges was used primarily to fund a lavish lifestyle for Strong's family.
Prosecutors noted in their memo that while Sonic Plastics had struggled to turn a profit for years, once Strong was fired in 2013, the business' finance began steadily improving.
Though Strong claimed he was funneling legitimate purchases through Grand Design in order to save his employer money, forensic accountants found no evidence any of the money was used for legitimate business reasons, according to the memorandum.
Strong's former boss, Martin Snow, was quoted in the memorandum detailing the trust he had placed in Strong.
"I thought he was a friend, he worked for me for so long we did things outside of work. We had dinner with his wife, we went to parties together, we sat on the sidelines of our kids' soccer games. He looked me in the eye every week and pretending he cared, pretending he was a trusted employee and friend!" Snow wrote.
Prosecutors also wrote that "This is not Mr. Strong's first rodeo," pointing to prior allegations of criminal behavior that Strong has not been punished for. According to the memorandum, Strong is suspected of using Grand Design to bill a previous employer for $200,000 in work that was never performed.
Prosecutors also alleged Strong has a $700,000 share in an illegal gambling business called Paradise Gaming, but didn't provide additional details about the endeavor. Tax evasion and money laundering are also suspected in connection with the gambling.1 comment on this story
As the government seeks restitution in the case, prosecutors noted that Strong has "a six-bedroom house in Sandy worth over half a million dollars," as well as a 2012 Mercedes and a 2013 Ford Explorer, but claims a negative cash flow each month. It is believed Strong used money embezzled from Sonic Plastics to help pay for the property.
"Given his lavish living expenses, the United States requests that the court impose a restitution repayment schedule that will force Mr. Strong to make lifestyle changes," prosecutors wrote.
Strong was ordered to begin his incarceration March 12.