WALKER — A 61-year-old Backus woman pleaded guilty to embezzling over $100,000 from a Pine River dental office.
According to court documents, Sandra Jean Kelley said she stole the money to support her gambling and shopping habits.
Kelley was convicted and sentenced Monday, March 15, in Cass County District Court on felony theft of diverting funds from Pine River Dental Arts. Kelley, who was charged Sept. 25, 2020, pleaded guilty to the theft before being sentenced. Judge Jana M. Austad ordered a stay of imposition on her sentence, which includes Kelley serving 60 days in Cass County Jail, being placed on supervised probation for five years and paying a $795 fine.
Kelley has until March 29 to report to jail and, once she has served her 60 days, the conditions of her supervised release include not having contact with the victims, not possessing firearms or ammunition, not voting and she must complete a gambling assessment.
According to the criminal complaint, the CEO of Pine River Dental Arts discovered discrepancies leading her to believe Kelley, the former office manager, mishandled company funds. When Kelley was employed, she was the only employee who oversaw the office financial duties, including payroll and accounts receivable.
A Cass County sheriff investigator spoke with Kelley, who admitted she stole from her former employer, that it had been going on since 2013 and she did it to support her gambling and shopping habits. Kelley stated she paid her personal credit card with company funds.
The CEO claimed Kelley took extra hours through payroll and she took cash from the company account for personal use. The CEO reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic office shutdown, she began to examine the business’ records and discovered that between Oct. 9, 2017, and March 31, 2020, Kelley used the corporate checking account to pay $84,633.08 off her personal credit card, the complaint stated. She also discovered Kelley paid for her personal cellphone bill with a corporate credit card on March 30, 2020, in the amount of $852.24.
The CEO reviewed the payroll records and compared them with office records and discovered that between Sept. 24, 2015, and March 9, 2020, Kelley overpaid herself $44,587.65, the complaint stated. The CEO said after comparing business records with cash deposits at the bank, that between Sept. 24, 2015, and March 31, 2020, Kelley took over $80,878.16 in cash.
The complaint further stated Kelley’s daughter-in-law also worked for the business from 2013 through 2019 as a patient coordinator. The CEO reported records showed Kelley overpaid her daughter-in-law as an employee by $27,908.91 between Sept. 24, 2015, and Sept. 5, 2019. Kelley asserted her daughter-in-law was completely unaware that she modified her payroll. The daughter-in-law reported she had no idea anything was wrong with her paychecks.