Woman stole $3.75M from employer after falling for romance scam enters guilty plea

Dollar banknotes and a gavel (Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

A woman in Wabasha County accused of stealing more than $3.75 million from her employer and sending it to a man she met online pleaded guilty to felony theft on Tuesday. 

Sharon Schmalzriedt, 61, was charged in December 2023 with felony theft of property and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from her employer and another $17,500 from a vulnerable adult in her care, after falling for an online romance scheme

Court records filed Tuesday indicate Schmalzriedt entered a guilty plea for felony theft of property over $35,000 in exchange for the other charge being dropped. Under the agreement, Schmalzriedt would receive five years of probation, pay $3,751,337.06 in restitution, and complete 1,000 hours of community service. 

According to court records, Schmalzriedt worked remotely as a bookkeeper from October 2019 to March 2023. During that time, she started a relationship with a man who allegedly told Schmalzriedt he needed U.S. currency in order to collect the $7 million he was owed from working in Dubai. 

Charges allege Schmalzriedt sent her own money at first but then started sending money from her employer’s accounts. The owner noticed large cash transfers sent to organizations they did not do business with and contacted law enforcement. 

Court records claim Schmalzriedt tried to delete records to hide the fraudulent transactions, and she was fired for "gross negligence," according to the complaint. 

Sentencing is scheduled for June 25. If Schmalzriedt does not meet the terms of her plea agreement, she faces 21 months in prison.