Oklahoma Woman Sentenced for $450K+ Ripoff of Operating Engineers Benefits

Some people don’t learn from experience. Susan Tyson seems to be one of them. On January 23, Tyson, former bookkeeper for an Oklahoma City firm, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to three years in prison for stealing $467,352.43 from a benefit plan sponsored by International Union of Operating Engineers Local 627. She also was ordered to pay $309,996 in restitution, a sum reflecting her previous repayment of more than $150,000 held in escrow. Tyson had pleaded guilty last June after being charged earlier that month in an information count. The actions follow a probe by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, and various state and local law enforcement agencies.

Susan Michelle Tyson, now 51, a resident of Yukon, Oklahoma, worked as a bookkeeper for Zenith American Solutions, Inc., an Oklahoma City-based company which managed health and retirement benefits on behalf of Operating Engineers Local 627. According to federal prosecutors, she put in a lot of effort into enriching herself. During July 11, 2014-January 20, 2017, Tyson transferred assets from the plan operating account to her personal accounts on 33 separate occasions. To conceal the thefts, she submitted duplicate invoices from plan vendors SavRX and CVS CareMark. Ms. Tyson spent much of the money she had stolen. Her apparently urgent expenses included a motorcycle, a pickup truck, vacations, gifts, renovations to her home and a down payment held in escrow for the purchase of another home.

In requesting a harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Hale called Tyson “chronically deceitful” and a “menace to society.” This was strong language, but the defendant in fact had a history of theft. Back in 2000, she was convicted of wire fraud in an Oklahoma City federal case and spent a few months in prison for that offense. During that prosecution, evidence came out that she also had stolen from another employer. “I know what I did was wrong and I accept responsibility for my actions,” Tyson stated in her plea agreement last June. One hopes that such words will be more than just talk.