SANTA ANA — A former executive at an Orange County commercial real estate agency pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $2.7 million from his employer by submitting bogus invoices for companies controlled by his family and friends, whose services never were performed.

Varun Aggarwal, 41, of Irvine, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney set a Jan. 22 sentencing hearing, at which time Aggarwal will face up to 20 years behind bars, according to federal prosecutors.

According to his plea agreement, from 2008 to January 2022, Aggarwal worked in the internal auditing department of the Newport Beach-based KBS Realty Advisors and rose to the level of the department’s director. Beginning at least as early as January 2012 and continuing until January 2022, Aggarwal used his position at KBS to embezzle his employer’s money, he admitted.

As a member of the company’s internal auditing group, Aggarwal was familiar with KBS’s policies and procedures for payments to vendors. Aggarwal used his knowledge of KBS’s policies and procedures to have his friends and family serve as approved vendors to do contracting work for KBS.

After several of these companies became approved vendors for KBS, Aggarwal used the approved vendors to submit fraudulent invoices for consulting services that were not performed for the company. He then funneled the payments on the invoices from KBS to his own bank accounts — through the approved vendors — at times without informing the vendors that the invoices and the payments on the invoices were for his own benefit, according to his plea agreement, filed in Santa Ana federal court.

In carrying out the scheme, Aggarwal fraudulently obtained about $2.72 million from KBS that he caused to be paid to the approved vendors that ultimately went to himself.

Aggarwal resigned from KBS in January 2022 after the company began investigating the invoices, according to court documents.

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