liberty couple pleads guilty to $2.8 million embezzlement, check kiting scheme to fund gambling, lavish spending
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Liberty, Mo., husband and wife pleaded guilty in federal court today to a nearly $2.8 million embezzlement and check kiting scheme and with filing a false tax return.
Laura Dejong, 54, and her husband, Craig Dejong, 55, both of Liberty, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple. Laura Dejong pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and both of the Dejongs pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return.
Laura Dejong admitted that she embezzled $2,679,227 from her employer, Kansas City Screw Products, Inc., from January 2003 to November 2011. Kansas City Screw Products is a family-owned and -operated metal fabrication business in Kansas City. Laura Dejong, who was employed as a secretary and bookkeeper for approximately 23 years, forged checks drawn on two company bank accounts.
Laura Dejong also engaged in a check kiting scheme between the company’s two banks in order to falsely inflate the company’s bank account balances, thereby increasing the amount of money she could embezzle. Her check kiting began in late June 2011. The total amount of checks written by Laura Dejong to cause the check kite increased from $44,000 in June 2011 to $847,000 in November 2011. The total loss from the check kite to Central Bank was $96,000.
The total combined loss for Kansas City Screw Products and Central Bank was $2,775,227.
According to court documents, significant gambling activity was identified for the Dejongs, well into the millions of dollars, from January 2002 to December 2011. The majority of the Dejongs’ gambling was at slot machines.
Records indicate that the Dejongs took at least eight cruises and spent more than $100,000 on payments for the cruises, vacations and airfare between 2005 and 2011. During the time of the embezzlement scheme, according to court documents, the Dejongs used the stolen money to purchase a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, a 2009 Honda Accord, a 1997 Crownline boat (20-foot fiberglass runabout), a 1997 Prestige boat trailer, a 1985 Chevrolet RV/motor-home (now a KC Chiefs party bus), a 2008 Jayco travel trailer, four Ameriprise Brokerage accounts; four Kansas Speedway season tickets (for Passholder seats, parking passes, and track passes), four Kansas City Chiefs Club Level season tickets and parking passes, membership to the Chiefs Wolfpack Club, an exclusive members-only facility, and their residence.
As part of their pleas, the Dejongs signed a stipulation forfeiting their home in Liberty and all of the above-listed property. Once the forfeiture is completed, the victims of the crime will be able to request that the forfeited funds be remitted to them for restitution.
The Dejongs admitted that they filed joint tax returns for tax years 2005-2010 but did not declare any of the embezzled money as income. During this time, Laura Dejong’s gross annual salary at Kansas City Screw Products ranged from $22,752 to $33,333. Craig Dejong was unemployed for four years and listed no income for the two years in which he claimed to be employed as a computer programmer.
As a result of filing false tax returns in those six years, the Dejongs owe the Internal Revenue Service a total of approximately $482,711.
Under federal statutes, Laura Dejong is subject to a sentence of up to 23 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. Craig Dejong is subject to a sentence of up to three years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.