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Bookkeeper who stole more than $1 million from small businesses sentenced to three years in federal prison

Patricia Lindau begged for lenience, saying she’s “very sorry.”

John Damroth, owner of Planet Records in Cambridge, was a victim of Patricia Lindau after doing business with her for more than 30 years. He filed a victim statement saying he felt “personally betrayed” by a woman he had known for decades.
John Damroth, owner of Planet Records in Cambridge, was a victim of Patricia Lindau after doing business with her for more than 30 years. He filed a victim statement saying he felt “personally betrayed” by a woman he had known for decades.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Patricia Lindau, whose firm provided payroll and payroll tax services to small businesses from Cape Cod to Maine, was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion.

Lindau, 66, of Newburgh, Maine, was also ordered to pay restitution of $1,422,122 — $272,138 of which is owed to the IRS.

“There are real victims here,” said US District Court Judge Denise Casper, pointing out that the victims were small businesses, some of them family-owned. “It wasn’t just the impact of the financial loss, but the stress of now having to figure out a way to pay the outstanding debt to the tax authorities and ... there was a sense of betrayal which affected the victims’ ability to trust others the way they trusted you.”

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Lindau, who was sentenced remotely, tearfully apologized.

“I was stuck in a bad situation, trying to do the best I could to make it right,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I’m very sorry and embarrassed. I ask for your mercy and leniency and let me do everything I can in trying to assist in restitution.”

George Lambos, the owner of Fresco’s Roast Beef & Seafood in Malden, said he was “hoping for something a little bit harsher. We had to pay fines and penalties and interest and she did not.” Lambos owed $130,000 in unpaid taxes, fines, and interest because Lindau failed to pay his taxes.

Last July, several victims — including 18 small-restaurant and two bakery owners, an electrician, and a newsstand operator — told The Boston Globe they were shocked when they discovered that Lindau had not been making tax payments on their behalf.

They described her as a nice woman who would chat with them over the phone for hours, asking about their lives and their children. She started her business, Northeast Abacus, Inc., in Newburyport, but later moved to Maine.

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They received an e-mail from her in May telling them that she could no longer provide payroll services “due to unforeseen circumstances.” There was no explanation and their calls and e-mails to Lindau went unanswered.

When she disappeared — her website gone, her phone disconnected — some feared she had fallen victim to the coronavirus.

But when the business owners started receiving overdue tax notices, they realized they had been swindled.

Prosecutors had sought nearly five years in federal prison, arguing that between 2017 and the spring of 2020, Lindau engaged in a “brazen scheme” to defraud her clients, leading them to believe she was paying their taxes “when in reality she was lining her own pockets,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed last week by prosecutors MacKenzie Queenin and Sara Bloom.

Arguing for a stiff prison sentence, prosecutors called Lindau’s crimes “significant, in part, because committing them required foresight, and repeated deliberate choices in order to perpetuate her deception. The crimes were not the byproduct of a single bad decision,“ they wrote.

She only stopped stealing from her clients because she got caught, prosecutors wrote.

Lindau’s lawyer, Carmine Lepore, had requested two years in federal prison, arguing that Lindau was a good person who was driven to steal as her business struggled and revenues dropped.

“Though not driven by greed or to feed an excessive lifestyle, the defendant would convert money intended for payment of client’s taxes to her own use to make ends meet,” Lepore wrote. “Mrs. Lindau was living a modest lifestyle and not purchasing expensive cars, jewelry, taking lavish vacations, purchasing vacation homes or residing in a million dollar home.”

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“None of this provides solace to the victims in this case, but it is her hope that it helps the court and the victims try to understand why a 66-year-old professional, educated woman with no prior criminal history ended up where she did,” he wrote.

Several victims submitted statements to the judge.

John Damroth, who owns Planet Records in Cambridge, and had done business with Lindau for more than 30 years, filed a victim statement saying he felt “personally betrayed” by a woman he had known for decades.

“From now on trust will be given less freely,” he wrote, adding that his financial loss, some $25,000, “may not seem like a fortune but there were some years when that was twice what I made from Planet Records. This strain added to worries about COVID closures and loss of business.”

Alyson Dawkins, who runs an electrical contracting business with her husband, Douglas, also filed a victim statement, and spoke at the sentencing.

She told Lindau that by failing to pay $54,000 in taxes “you have ruined us. We have to pay back the money you stole. That was money my husband worked his tail off [for] to support his family and could use towards our daughters future dreams, like attending college. Now we have over $50,000 less to do that thanks to you and your corrupt ways.”

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In a letter to the judge, Lindau’s husband, K. Morgan Lindau, asked the judge not to send his wife to prison, calling her a “kind and forgiving person.”

“My sincere feeling is that she needs help more than she deserves incarceration,” he wrote.


Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.