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Melodie Ann Eckland was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison and ordered to pay over $1.6 million in restitution.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland.A Hillsboro woman was sentenced Wednesday, Jan. 19, to prison and ordered to pay more than $1.6 million in restitution after she pleaded guilty to stealing from the adoption agency where she worked.

Melodie Ann Eckland was the bookkeeper for a local adoption and surrogacy agency from 2011 to 2018, using her position to write checks to herself and transfer money to her personal bank account, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon.

Prosecutors say that in order to conceal her embezzlement, Eckland maintained a set of falsified financial records, applied for loans using altered documents to make it appear as though she owned the agency, and forged her husband's signature to withdraw money from the estate of his deceased brother.

Eckland also reportedly failed to pay both the adoption agency's employment taxes and personal taxes on the "other income" she reported to the IRS.

"As a result of her scheme, Eckland's victims — including the adoption agency and its owners, her brother-in-law's estate, and the IRS — suffered a total loss of more than $1.6 million," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement announcing Eckland's sentencing.

A federal judge in Portland sentenced Eckland to four and a half years in federal prison and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay back the money of which she deprived the agency, estate and federal government.

"Melodie Eckland used her position of trust within a local adoption agency to steal funds intended to help children across the world find loving families," said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, in a statement after the sentencing. "She further stole thousands of dollars from a deceased family member's estate in a failed attempt to keep her employer from discovering her scheme.

"Eckland's selfishness and greed caused great loss and hardship for many people and pushed her employer agency to the brink of insolvency."

Eckland pleaded guilty on June 29, 2021, to aggravated identity theft, filing a false tax return, willfully failing to collect or pay payroll taxes, and wire fraud, less than a month after she was initially charged.

The case was investigated by both the IRS and the Hillsboro Police Department.

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