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July 06, 2022

Former CEO had embezzlement conviction in past

Donna Osowitt Steele
(Facebook photo)

A Taylorsville woman accused of embezzling more than $15 million from her employer in Catawba County had been convicted in the past of embezzlement as well.

Last week, The Times reported that Donna Osowitt Steele, of Taylorsville, was named as the alleged embezzler of more than $15 million in a Bill of Information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on December 17, 2021, in U.S. District Court, Western District, Statesville Division. The filing was made by Dena J. King, United States Attorney, and Maria K. Vento, Assistant United States Attorney. The U.S. Attorney charges that from as early as 2013 through January 2020, Steele executed a scheme to defraud her employer, referred to as “Victim Company A” in the filing.

According to corporation papers filed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office, Steele was listed as Vice President of Tigra USA, Inc. The company was organized and based first in Ashe County and more recently, in Hickory. Tigra USA is a subsidiary of a European company that manufactures carbide products used in saw blades for the woodworking industry. The owners of Tigra USA and its parent company live overseas.

The federal court filing indicated that Steele was employed by the company from in or about 1999 until she was terminated on or about January 28, 2020. Steele was initially hired to work in the shipping department. Over the next 20 years, she was promoted to various roles at Tigra, including, in or about 2008, to Vice President and, in or about 2015, obtaining the title of Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”), a position she held until she was fired, the U.S. Attorney stated.

Steele used her position as Vice President and then as CEO to embezzle more than $15 million from the company, the U.S. Attorney filing stated.

Previous embezzlement and misdemeanor convictions

Donna Osowitt Steele, under her maiden name, Donna Michelle Osowitt, was convicted of embezzlement in Forsyth County in 1995. The North Carolina Public Offender database indicates that Osowitt was convicted of embezzlement on August 1, 1995, in Forsyth County.

The Sept. 30, 1995, issue of The Winston-Salem Journal quoted then-Detective Dwayne Hedgecock of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department, who said that Donna Osowitt, as she was known then, started work as a secretary and bookkeeper at Ad Sign Corp. in Clemmons in October 1994. She waited two weeks before beginning to spend the company’s money on a swanky lifestyle. Her purchases included buying a new Ford Mustang convertible, a Chevrolet Blazer, jewelry, nice clothes, a jet ski, and a new home, according to a lady Osowitt befriended and then defrauded.
Osowitt also started her own interior design company, Design International, with Ad Sign Corp. money, the detective said.

Picture of Donna Michelle Osowitt, from a Beaver Creek High School (Ashe Co., NC) yearbook

The Journal indicated that R. Jack Perkins, owner of Ad Sign, had not checked Osowitt’s criminal history before hiring her. Osowitt had been charged with embezzling from a store at Hanes Mall in 1990. Osowitt pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny. She had 30 other charges, mainly for worthless checks. Osowitt was convited five times, the Journal reported in 1995. The other charges were dismissed. Osowitt also had records for writing worthless checks in Wilkes and Yadkin counties, the Journal reported.

During the Ad Sign trial, Osowitt’s mother, Polly Osowitt, said Donna stole from the family’s medical supply business in Ashe County. Her mother told the court that the family had spent thousands on psychological help for their daughter.

Osowitt pleaded guilty to embezzling $270,000 from Perkins, the WSJ continued.

Earlier, the Journal, in an August 2, 1995, article, detailed Osowitt’s sentencing. “Judge G.K. Butterfield of Forsyth Superior Court ordered her to pay $270,131 in restitution to Ad Sign.”

The North Carolina Offender information database lists Donna Michelle Osowitt, age 52, as having been convicted of three misdemeanor counts of Forgery, 16 misdemeanor counts of Worthless Check (including four counts of Worthless Check on Closed Account), one felony count of Fraud ­– Rental Vehicle (failure to return rental car), and one felony count of Embezzlement. The time served for these convictions, for offenses committed from 1993 through 1995 ended with her release from prison on June 28, 1996.

The Times has reached out to Steele’s attorney for comment this week but has not yet received a reply.

2 Comments

  1. Noel Triplett on January 13, 2022 at 9:18 am

    Serves ’em right. After her very first embezzlement actions, anyone seeking to employ her should have done a bit of due diligence and performed at least a basic background check. I was once credit manager for a national company and was also responsible for checking new employment applications. I was amazed at the number of dishonest people I turned up with little effort

  2. Dawn F Rettew on January 13, 2022 at 8:48 pm

    It is so easy to fall into the trap of “second and third chances” as a business owner, looking for talent, you want to believe they have changed and are honestly rehabilitated but they never were in my case. They will mercilessly take the shirt off your back and even the food off your table as she obviously did to other employees. Children suffer from their actions as well, as their parents have no paychecks to cash, the children go without his or their accustomed day-to-day activities and even suffer without proper needs being me. It is like a snowball downhill, picking up more unsuspecting victims as it rolls, getting bigger and bigger. I hope she gets 20 years, she deserves more,

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