CHICAGO (STMW) — A federal grand jury has accused a 39-year-old woman of defrauding Chicago-based Tribune Co. during its lengthy bankruptcy.

Stephanie Pater, the company’s former real estate director, was accused of bilking Tribune out of $260,000.

Prosecutors did not name the Tribune in their indictment, which was filed last week. They referred only to Company A and Company B. But Pater’s employment history is consistent with what was described in the indictment and a source confirmed that Tribune is Company A.

Pater was appointed real estate director of Tribune in 2008 by then-owner Sam Zell. In 2010, she formed her own company, Catalyst Group LLC, which the media giant hired when it outsourced real estate management, including the operations of its landmark Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan.

According to the indictment, Pater created a phony contract in March 2010, falsely stating that Catalyst was entitled to commissions that should have been paid to Tribune by Company B.

She used the contract to con Company B into giving her checks, it’s alleged. But when Tribune executives asked for the contract, she tried to cover up her wrongdoing by giving them the original, unforged contract, it’s alleged.

Pater, who was allowed to remain free on her own recognizance last week, is due to be arraigned in federal court Friday.

She could not immediately be reached for comment. A Tribune spokesman would not discuss the case.

According to a profile published in Crain’s Chicago Business in 2008, Pater impressed Tribune bosses with a salty approach that included using swear words in her job interview.

In a biography published by the trade association CoreNet Global, Pater was credited with helping Tribune consolidate operations after its Chapter 11 filing in late 2008. The biography said Pater reduced the company’s annual rental expenses by $20 million and sold $200 million in excess property.

Tribune, owner of the Chicago Tribune, seven other major newspapers and a lineup of broadcasters that includes WGN TV and radio, is close to emerging from bankruptcy. It will be under the control of its major debtholders.

Pater previously was director of real estate for the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP. She also worked in Atlanta for Kaplan Inc. and Trammell Crow Co.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)