Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Neosho, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for stealing more than $4.9 million from his employer.
David VanWinkle, 61, of Neosho, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to five years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered VanWinkle to forfeit to the government $4,911,621, a 2013 Holland tractor, a 2007 Hummer H3, a 2012 John Deere no-till seed drill, and $28,086 that was seized from various bank accounts.
VanWinkle was the comptroller for Frontier Leasing Incorporated (FLI) in Joplin, Mo., where he had worked for 22 years and had a close, personal relationship with the owner. On Feb. 28, 2014, VanWinkle pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to pay taxes. VanWinkle admitted that he stole $4,911,621 from FLI between June 2008 and December 2013, which he spent on personal expenses and gambling.
According to court documents, VanWinkle’s embezzlement caused severe financial distress for the company, its owners and its employees. During the more than five years that he was embezzling, FLI struggled financially. FLI, between its employees and contractors, provided a living for over 100 individuals and their families in the Joplin area. While VanWinkle was stealing millions, FLI and its employees were voluntarily taking pay cuts to ensure that this business would not close its doors. As the comptroller for FLI, the government’s sentencing memorandum states, VanWinkle would have been acutely aware of the ramifications of his greed and its direct impact on FLI’s employees and their families.
According to court documents, VanWinkle’s fraud was detected after the owners of FLI were contacted due to the company’s failure to pay employee taxes because VanWinkle had stolen the money that was intended for that purpose. VanWinkle was responsible for collecting payroll taxes for FLI and paying over those payroll taxes to the IRS. VanWinkle withheld those taxes but failed to turn them over to the IRS. VanWinkle admitted that he collected, but failed to pay over, a total of $435,896 in federal tax, Social Security and FICA withheld from FLI employees’ paychecks.
Federal agents then began investigating unusual deposits VanWinkle made into his business accounts for two businesses, VanWinkle Accounting and VanWinkle Farms.
VanWinkle, acting as the comptroller for FLI, received payments from FLI’s customers in the form of checks. VanWinkle deposited some of those checks into FLI’s legitimate business accounts, but deposited other checks into another, secret checking account under the name of FLI that VanWinkle had opened at another bank. VanWinkle was the sole person on this secret account; no one else was aware that FLI had the account. VanWinkle was not authorized to open an account or deposit any of FLI’s customer payment checks into the account.
VanWinkle admitted that he withdrew money from the secret bank account to deposit into his business accounts.
VanWinkle failed to report the embezzled funds from FLI on his personal income tax returns he filed with the Internal Revenue Service for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. VanWinkle did not file income tax returns for the years 2011 and 2012, and therefore did not report the embezzled funds during these years, either.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.