Prechtel pleads not guilty to federal charges

Sandra Ann Prechtel, 49, of St. Marys, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Erie Wednesday on charges of tax evasion and mail fraud. The plea was entered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter. Prechtel had been indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with three felony counts of tax evasion and six felony counts of mail fraud for the alleged embezzlement of more than $970,000 from her employer, Abbott Furnace Co. in St. Marys, between 2002 and 2007. During that time, she was in charge of accounting and payroll, had the ability to write checks for expenses and handled W-2 wage reports and the deposit of withholding amounts for employees. According to court documents, the alleged embezzlement occurred through the defendant's writing additional paychecks, inflating the funds going to her direct deposit account and not making payroll deductions on the deposit amounts; failing to record such deposits and making false entries on the books; preparing false W-2 forms underreporting her income; and using the United States Postal Service to send $19,885.72 of Abbot Furnace Co. funds to pay the balances she held on six credit card accounts.Prechtel has requested a jury trial. She was released on unsecured $5,000 bond, conditional upon her not breaking any laws, appearing before the court when summoned, remaining at her current address and any other conditions specified by the court. According to court documents, all pre-trial motions must be filed within 14 days. No trial date has been set. If convicted, Prechtel faces a maximum sentence of 135 years in prison and a fine of $2,250,000, or both.