A Eugene woman is facing years in prison and millions of dollars in restitution after pleading guilty last week to defrauding the American timberland company Weyerhaeuser — her former employer — out of more than $4.5 million.
Susan Tranberg, 61, pleaded guilty in federal court on Jan. 31 to mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax evasion.
“Susan Tranberg used her intimate knowledge of the Weyerhaeuser Company to perpetrate a lengthy and complex fraud,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “She went to great lengths to disguise her actions and mislead her colleagues.”
Tranberg then took her scheme a step further by evading paying taxes on her fraudulent gains, Williams said.
“Her crimes reflect a complete disdain for her employer and utter contempt for her responsibilities as an American taxpayer,” he said.
“Between 2004 and 2019, Susan Tranberg purported herself as a trustworthy and dedicated employee. In reality, she was embezzling more than $4 million dollars,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell. “She cheated both her employer and the American taxpayers by evading taxes on her embezzled income.”
According to court documents, beginning as early as June 2004 and continuing to January 2019, Tranberg defrauded Weyerhaeuser out of more than $4.5 million by submitting fraudulent invoices for payment to a fake vendor she created. Tranberg had worked for Weyerhaeuser in Springfield, Ore., in various positions for more than 40 years.
At some point in or before June 2004, Tranberg created a fake timber contract between the company and a vendor she named after her mother, who was unaware of the scheme.
Over the next 10 years, Tranberg would use her positions in the company’s accounting and finance departments to request cashier’s checks payable to the fake vendor. During this time period, Tranberg requested and received more than $2.6 million.
In June 2014, Weyerhaeuser transitioned to a new payment processing system. To continue her scheme, Tranberg set up a fake vendor account in the new system and attached a letter purportedly from her mother describing the documentation provided to set up the account.
This documentation included a Form SSA-1099 Social Security Statement and a forged Form W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.
Between June 2014 and January 2019, Tranberg continued her scheme by forging colleagues’ signatures on check requests and using her colleagues’ computer login credentials without authorization to create requests and approve fraudulent payments.
All requested cashier’s checks were sent via private or commercial interstate carrier directly to Tranberg. During these final five years, Tranberg requested and received nearly $1.9 million.
Tranberg faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. In addition, a conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a two-year mandatory minimum sentence required to be served consecutive to any other prison sentence imposed.
As part of her plea agreement, Tranberg has agreed to pay $4,581,218 in restitution to Weyerhaeuser and $807,033 in restitution to the IRS.