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Former employee admits defrauding AccuWeather

WILLIAMSPORT – A former employee benefits administrator for AccuWeather Inc. has admitted she defrauded the State College weather forecasting firm out of thousands of dollars.

Aira Nelson, 37, of West Chapel, Florida, on Thursday pleaded guilty in U.S. Middle District Court to a wire fraud charge.

The government claims her schemes netted $98,914 while assistant public defender Gerald Lord said he believes the amount is approximately $68,000.

The plea agreement requires her to make full restitution, the exact amount of which will be determined before she is sentenced.

Nelson admitted she used over a three-year period beginning in September 2015 her access to AccuWeather’s benefits, payroll and human resources information systems to establish fictitious Flexible Spending Accounts for herself, her husband and seven others.

It appears her husband was unaware what she had done and was told the money was a bonus from AccuWeather, Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel said.

Employees through payroll deductions contribute to the accounts that are used for reimbursement of qualified health care and dependent care costs.

Nelson never enrolled in the benefit program and did not have any money deducted from her paycheck, Rocktashel said.

The indictment charges between September 2015 and July 2018 she received $88,992 in false claims reimbursements and $9,922 by defrauding the Highmark AccuWeather health and dental insurance program.

The latter, she admitted, was done by enrolling herself and her family and then canceling payroll deductions for the program, the government charges.

During 2016, 2017 and 2018 she submitted approximately $13,000 in claims for herself and her family but contributed only $120 in payroll deductions, the charges state.

It caused the benefit program to incur $9,922 in expenses to cover the claims compared with the $23 had there been proper payroll deductions, Rocktashel said.

Nelson contends she did not get the full $88,992 because she was unable to cash checks for fictitious individuals.

She claimed she used the money to dig the family out of a financial hole, make car payments and pay bills, Rocktashel said.

Nelson remains free on $20,000 unsecured bail with her travel limited to the Tampa Bay area of Florida where she lives and also central Pennsylvania.

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