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Reserve employee jailed for 15 months, must repay $481K

NEW ORLEANS — A former Reserve hot sauce warehouse manager was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to repay $481,231 in restitution to Baumer Foods, the company that makes Crystal Hot Sauce.

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman sentenced Wayne Soniat on Wednesday, according to U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans, who said the sentence includes three years of supervised release and follows guilty pleas to a two-count Bill of Information for wire fraud and making false statements on federal income tax returns.

Soniat was responsible for ensuring employees followed appropriate procedures, keeping track of when temporary employees worked and submitting the requisite paperwork, including time sheets, to ensure his employer paid the temporary employees and the staffing agency.

Between November 2009 and October 2014, Soniat embezzled approximately $437,346 in a series of 200 wire transfers, without his bosses’ authorization.

Soniat signed the paperwork, indicating temporary “ghost employees” performed work when they had not.

Soniat obtained debit cards in the names of the ghost employees onto which payments were made for the time they allegedly worked. Soniat used the money to pay for personal expenses to withdraw cash at area ATMs.

Additionally, Soniat failed to report the income from his scheme on his federal income tax returns, which resulted in the loss of $43,885 to the U.S. Government.

In a release this week, Evans praised the work of the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office and others for helping prosecute the case.