Christiana Denny, a former employee of Lafayette, Ind.-based Lafayette Glass Co., has pleaded guilty to corrupt business influence and forgery in a case related to embezzlement from the company, according to Tippecanoe County (Ind.) Superior Court Records.
Ms. Denny, 44, had turned herself in last June on an arrest warrant charging her with ten felony counts related to embezzlement, according to police records. She is alleged to have stolen more than $100,000 over the estimated span of 11 years, according to Lafayette Glass Co. president Dennis Clark.
Ms. Denny originally was charged with one count of corrupt business influence, three counts of forgery, two counts of money laundering, two counts of theft and two counts of fraud.
Clark told USGlass magazine that Denny left his company with a mere $4,000 in its bank account and approximately $70,000 in overdue accounts payable during an interview last fall.
“We’ve been in the business for 66 years and we’re well-respected with our creditors, and they even offered to give us assistance, extended times and so forth, but I didn’t need to do that,” he recalls. “Had I not been in a financial position where I could put more money into the company we probably would not have been able to do this.”
Clark said that Ms. Denny had been stealing from the company in a variety of ways, after having been with the company for 19 years.
“Naturally, we trusted her,” Clark said. “We brought her through the ranks, so to speak, and she was almost like a daughter to me … We know it’s been happening since 2001. I think it started out that she was taking a little bit and then a little more, and then she started taking everything she could get her hands on.”
The company discovered the alleged theft in 2009 and contacted the local police, who eventually turned the case over to the state. “They subpoenaed all of her bank accounts and credit cards and they’re the ones who really found out all the things she was doing,” said Clark. “We would probably not have realized that it was anything near that kind of money.”
Ms. Denny’s alleged theft took on several forms, according to Clark. For example, she was taking all of the cash that came into the company on a daily basis and only was depositing the checks that arrived. “[She also was] padding the payroll,” says Clark. “She had two brothers who worked here, and she padded one of the brothers’ payroll records—for a total of $30,000 over the years.”
When Clark first heard accusations from another employee that Denny had been stealing, he didn’t believe it. “I told him, ‘you can’t just accuse someone of something like that; you’ve got to have proof,’” he recalls.
Shortly after, the employee stayed afterhours and allegedly caught Denny stealing $750 from the company’s safe.
Today, Lafayette Glass Co. has made one main change to prevent possible theft—or at least reduce the risk for it—in the future. “I have a son, Chris, who’s in the business, and all checks have to be signed by either him or myself,” said Clark. “No one else has any check-signing authority.”
He promoted an office assistant to bookkeeper, but she doesn’t have check-signing authority the way Denny did. “It’s sad that you can’t trust people to do the right thing, but that’s the way it is.”
He warns others that trust often is overrated unfortunately. “Don’t be so trustworthy of all your employees,” said Clark. “I trusted [Denny] too much and I put too much control in her hands. I never would have expected this from her. It just goes to show you that not all people are honest.”
Ms. Denny is scheduled to be sentenced on July 5.