Edward M. Cooper Jr. entered the plea in front of Chief Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.
According to the plea agreement, Cooper admitted to stealing more than $9 million from Roach Manufacturing Corp. of Trumann over a period of more than 20 years. Cooper had worked for the accounting firm Osborn & Osborn CPAs PLLC of Jonesboro, which had counted Roach as client going back to 1969.
In February, as part of a civil case brought by Roach, a Craighead County judge ordered Cooper to pay the Roach $9 million for embezzling the money. The conveyor system manufacturer had asked Circuit Judge John Fogleman to rule in its favor before the case got to trial on some of its claims against Cooper, which included breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, unjust enrichment and commission of a felony.
In response, Cooper denied any theft or embezzlement, but he admitted that he "misappropriated monies from Roach." He didn't provide additional details, and he relied on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in his answer to the original complaint.
Roach initially alleged in a lawsuit filed in May 2018 that Cooper embezzled $4.5 million over several years. After doing more digging, Roach said the embezzlement went back almost 30 years and was double the amount first thought.
Arkansas Business reported in January 2018 that the federal investigators were interested in Cooper.
In court documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors said Cooper obtained 138 unauthorized checks from Roach totaling about $9.2 million. Cooper used between two and 12 unauthorized checks per year between 1996 and 2017. The checks ranged from $18,000 to $98,000.
Prosecutors said Cooper falsified Roach's financial books and records so the checks wouldn't be discovered. He also forged the signatures of authorized payers.
Cooper faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, although federal sentencing guidelines could affect the judge's final decision.