(Credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

A senior living community nursing director was able to embezzle thousands of dollars from her former employer after being fired, in part because the community did not immediately disable her access to its web-based reimbursement request platform, according to the US Department of Justice.

In all, Dara Little, a former executive director of nursing at Bliss Place Assisted Living, an Enlivant senior living community in Bedford, IN, stole almost $420,000 over five years, the department said. Some of the thefts occurred when she accessed the reimbursement system using other employees’ accounts once her access was terminated.

A spokesperson for Enlivant told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company cannot comment on litigation matters but that it “supports the partnership of the FBI and US attorneys who thoroughly investigated and prosecuted this matter, and thanks them for their service.”

Little has been sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of wire fraud. US District Court Judge Sara Evans Barger also ordered that Little serve three years of probation after her release from federal prison. She has been ordered to pay the full $419,542.45 in restitution.

Little was fired in 2016 for timesheet fraud and theft of prescription medicine, but her access to the senior living community’s web-based reimbursement request platform was not immediately disabled, according to the Justice Department. After she was fired, Little submitted 24 expense reimbursement requests totaling more than $58,770. Those requests, according to the DOJ, contained forged and falsified receipts that had no connection to her employment at the community.

Before her access to the platform was deactivated in September 2016, Little submitted receipts for small furniture purchases, as well as for expenses for dishwasher maintenance, locksmith services, iPads and baby strollers, according to the Justice Department.

The day after her access was terminated, Little began using another employee’s account to submit additional fraudulent reimbursement requests, the department said. Between September 2016 and March 2021, Little reportedly submitted 172 fraudulent reimbursement requests for $173,900. Those requests included forged and falsified receipts for a chicken restaurant in England, a California shoe store and a cheerleading uniform. The receipt picture Little used from the restaurant had gone viral in 2013 after it was posted online and identified as belonging to singer Beyonce, according to the federal government. 

In October 2017, Little also began using a second employee’s account to submit fraudulent reimbursement requests, the department said. Between October 2017 and March 2021, Little reportedly submitted 155 additional fraudulent reimbursement requests totaling $161,000. Those requests involved submitting the same receipt from the restaurant more than 58 additional times, as well as submitting for expenses from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, for a men’s clothing store and for a child’s chemistry set. 

A search by investigators of Little’s cell phone uncovered a note in which she admitted to stealing more than $400,000 from her former employer over five years, detailed how the money was stolen and listed personal expenses funded by the stolen funds.

“Ms. Little intentionally sought to personally benefit by diverting funds that were not her own to line her own pocket,” FBI Indianapolis Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Middleton said in a statement. “This sentence should send a clear message to others who might consider doing the same.”