Liberty couple charged in $2.8M embezzlement scheme - KCTV5

Liberty couple charged in $2.8M embezzlement scheme

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A longtime Liberty couple is in hot water with the federal government after prosecutors said they embezzled nearly $3 million from the wife's employer to fund their gambling and lavish lifestyle.

Federal prosecutors charged Laura Dejong, 54, with one count of mail fraud. Both her and her husband, 55-year-old Craig Dejong, were charged with one count of filing a false tax return.

The two waived their right to a grand jury.

Laura Dejong allegedly embezzled $2,679,227 from her employer, Kansas City Screw Products, Inc., from January 2003 to November 2011.

The Kansas City company is a family-owned-and-operated metal fabrication business.

Laura Dejong, who was employed as a secretary and bookkeeper for about 23 years, allegedly forged checks drawn on the company's bank accounts.

According to federal prosecutors, Laura Dejong engaged in a check kiting scheme between the company's two banks in order to falsely inflate the company's bank account balances, increasing the amount of money she could embezzle.

Her check kite allegedly 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, prosecutors say. The total loss from the check kite to the bank was $96,000.

The total combined loss for the company and bank was $2,775,227.

According to court documents, significant gambling activity, well into the millions of dollars, was identified for the Dejongs from January 2002 to December 2011.

The majority of the Dejongs' gambling was at slot machines, federal prosecutors said.

Court records indicate 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 20-foot boat, a 1997 Prestige boat trailer, a 1985 Chevrolet motor home, a 2008 Jayco travel trailer, four Ameriprise Brokerage accounts, four Kansas Speedway season tickets, four Kansas City Chiefs Club Level season tickets and parking passes, membership to the Chiefs Wolfpack Club, an exclusive members-only facility and their home.

Prosecutors said it was fairly easy to suspect the Dejongs of using funds beyond their own.

Court records state the Dejongs filed joint tax returns for tax years 2005-2010 but did not declare any of the embezzled money as income.

During that time, Laura Dejong's gross annual salary was less than $35,000. 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.

Neighbors of the couple told KCTV5 News the Dejongs were very nice and friendly and they considered them normal neighbors. Neighbors did say their love for the Chiefs made them stand out.

"Yep, he had a Chiefs bus and they went to a lot of Chiefs games and they had a son and I think they all enjoyed the Chiefs and going to the games on Sundays," neighbor John Miller said.

As a result of allegedly filing false tax returns in those six years, the Dejongs owe the Internal Revenue Service nearly $500,000.

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