Woman sentenced to prison, restitution for embezzlement

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Verona bookkeeper ordered to repay $174,693 to car dealer

A Verona woman has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $174,693 in restitution for embezzlement that took place over three years.

Teresa Kay Davis, 52, of Verona, was sentenced by Stone County Judge Alan Blankinship on Thursday in Barry County Circuit Court to eight years in prison and to pay restitution for stealing from Les Jacobs Ford, a Cassville car dealership where Davis worked as a bookkeeper. Davis pleaded guilty in April to stealing more than $25,000. No trial was held.

With no plea deal in place, sentencing was at the judge's discretion. Blankinship received the case when Circuit Judge Jack Goodman recused himself.

According to Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox, irregularities were discovered in dealership's books during Davis' absence in November 2012. An investigation followed, revealing "tens of thousands" of dollars missing. Davis was interviewed by Sheriff Mick Epperly and a detective and "implicated herself."

The dealership subsequently ordered an audit back to 2009 and found approximately $224,000 missing. Cox said the statute of limitations only allowed charges back for three years.

The embezzlement appeared to take place by Davis filling out one deposit slip at the dealership and another at the bank with different amounts. Davis only admitted to taking approximately $50,000 to $60,000.

"[Davis was the one who took the deposits to the bank," Cox said. "[Davis] never implicated anyone else. No one ever brought something to me to look at, either the victim, the dealership or Ms. Davis.

"We had all their bank records and the records from the accounting firm's audit. With no accountant on the sheriff's department staff, we have to rely on witnesses to tell us what's missing."

During the sentencing hearing, Cox said Davis' attorney, Stuart Huffman, of Springfield, made vague statements in disputing the amount taken, but made no accusations. Testifying as the victim, Les Jacobs said another bookkeeper was the one who realized the funds were missing. Cox said Davis acting alone "was all the evidence ever revealed." Cox added no other parties pressured him to avoid filing additional indictments.

Under Missouri law, theft over $25,000 was the only guilty plea open to Davis. The class B felony subjects her to a prison term of five to 15 years. If the judge was only going to sentence Davis to probation and 120 days of shock time in jail, Cox asked Blankinship to order Davis to repay the full amount found missing in the audit. If the judge ordered jail time, Cox recommended restitution of $174,693.

Davis previously received a sentence of three years probation in federal court for stealing money from Commercial Bank in 1993.

"I think the sentence was a result of the amount that she stole -- around here, that's a big amount -- and the prior guilty plea in 1993," Cox said.

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