For more than 20 years, Pleasant Grove, Utah Police Lt. James Taufer says he adhered to his sworn duty to protect the public and uphold the law.
And he insists he had no idea that his wife of 25 years was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from three separate employers.
Victims of Kristine Taufer's swindling, however, question the veteran officer's claims of innocence, pointing out that some of the stolen funds were deposited directly into his bank account and that some of the fraudulent checks bore his name.
James Taufer adamantly denies knowledge of his former wife's criminal activity while they were married. But he is resigned to the fact that his reputation as a law-enforcement officer may forever be tarnished.
Kristine Taufer, 43, pleaded guilty earlier this year in Provo's 4th District Court to three second-degree felony counts of theft and unlawful use of a credit card. She also admitted guilt on five third-degree felony counts of forgery and credit card fraud.
All charges are in connection with the theft of funds from three Utah County companies that hired Kristine Taufer as a bookkeeper. The charges came as the result of an investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office and the Utah County attorney.
Kristine Taufer will be sentenced July 23.
Court records show that Kristine Taufer was convicted in September 2000 on felony counts of forgery and theft by deception for stealing funds from a Provo dental office where she worked as an office manager. Court records show that Taufer managed to avoid jail time but was placed on 36 months probation and ordered to pay $5,546 in restitution.
Soon after that conviction, Taufer was hired as office manager for Mechanical Insulation Specialists. Tim Taylor, a deputy Utah County attorney, said Kristine Taufer is believed to have used forged checks to take $93,000 from the Alpine company.
Kristine Taufer was soon fired. Yet she was hired again as an office manager in May 2001 at the surveying company of Daley & Associates in Payson, where she allegedly made off with an estimated $175,000. She pleaded guilty in the case.
For MaryLou Daley, owner of Daley & Associates, the loss of money has left her struggling to save her family business from financial collapse. Funds set aside for paying taxes, health insurance and other bills are gone. They believe they were siphoned by Kristine Taufer.
"We've been in business for 20 years," Daley said. "It has ruined our lives."
For almost a year, Daley said her late husband trusted Kristine Taufer with his company's finances. In reality, said Payson Police detective Tom Runyan, Taufer was spending the company money on trips, horse supplies and even on building her family's new house.
"She took out five credit cards in her own name that we didn't know about," Daley said.
In addition, Daley has copies of returned company checks showing payments for home improvements. One $8,000 check was for home siding, another $3,000 check was to Home Depot, another $10,000 check was written out to Kristine Taufer herself.
MaryLou Daley said she is now left with a business on the verge of collapse.
She's also dealing with the death of her husband, David, who died of a stroke in July 2001 one month after he fired Kristine Taufer. In part, MaryLou Daley blames her husband's death on the stress and worry left by the missing money.
"I'll tell you what's it's like," MaryLou Daley said. "It's like paying for a whole herd of very expensive dead horses. That's what it's like."
Runyan said police investigators indeed focused their attention on James Taufer as well.
Their conclusion, Runyan said, was that James Taufer had no idea what was going on.
"She ran the financial show at home, too," Runyan said. "I think he just didn't pay attention to what was going on around him."
"I've done a lot of soul searching on this, and I've thought, 'How could I have not seen this,' " James Taufer told the Deseret Morning News. "You'd like to think in a relationship there's some level of trust, and I feel really sorry for what she did to these people, but I had absolutely no idea she was doing this."
James Taufer claims he assumed all the money coming from his wife was from the sale of some land that they owned. James said his wife told him that she was going to sell the land and use the money to start construction on their new home.
He also said that his wife always took care of looking at their bank statements, and even balanced his checkbook for him.
James Taufer divorced Kristine Taufer in February. He said he didn't learn the full scope of the crimes until that month, when police sat him down and told him.
Yet victims remain skeptical. How can a man married to a woman for 25 years, sharing their lives, and knowing that she had been previously been convicted of fraud, not know something was going on?
MaryLou Daley's daughter, Darlene Carlisle, pointed out that Kristine Taufer had ordered a set of checks printed, using the company's account number, but with the name "James W. Taufer" on the face. Carlisle also points out that a $10,000 check was deposited by Kristine Taufer directly into James Taufer's personal bank account.
"How could he not know what was going on?" she said.
The Daley family also hired a private investigator, who found that while on a trip to Panguitch on Aug. 17, 2001, a worker at the Adobe Sands Hotel said she remembered James Taufer using a Daley & Associates credit card number for room reservations.
Further investigation, however, showed that Kristine Taufer ultimately signed the credit card receipt.
James Taufer's employer is taking the allegations seriously.
Officials at the Pleasant Grove Police Department, where James Taufer heads the patrol division, have been concerned. "We've been involved with this investigation from the very beginning," said Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Cody Cullimore.
But police found no evidence that James Taufer had any criminal involvement.
"If anyone has any evidence, we would encourage them to contact us, we want to be very open about this."
During a court hearing this month, Kristine Taufer acknowledged that she has a problem.
"I regret what I've done to these victims," she said. "My life was definitely out of control."
Runyan, the Payson detective, adds that while employed with Daley & Associates, Kristine Taufer was on probation and was not allowed to work with other people's money. A criminal background check could have saved the Daley family a lot of trouble, he said.
"She even cleaned me out," he said.
As an officer, Taufer said the ordeal has dealt a blow to his credibility.
"People are going to question me," he said, "and I guess that's something I'm going to have to deal with."
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