Missouri man admits embezzling $4.9 million from motor carrier

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 3/13/2014

The former financial comptroller for a Missouri-based trucking company has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $5 million in company funds and employee tax contributions. 

Federal prosecutors say David VanWinkle, 60, of Neosho, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury trial and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to pay taxes. The plea was entered Feb. 28 before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush.

VanWinkle worked for Joplin, Mo.-based Frontier Leasing Inc., and in his job processed payments from the company’s customers. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, VanWinkle correctly deposited some checks into the company’s bank accounts but placed other checks into an account he opened at a different bank. VanWinkle admitted to withdrawing and spending the embezzled money for personal expenses and gambling.

Investigators were tipped off that someone had been making unusual deposits into VanWinkle’s two business accounts – VanWinkle Accounting and VanWinkle Farms.

According to an indictment, VanWinkle “failed to report the embezzled funds from FLI on his personal income tax returns” filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2008, 2009 and 2010. VanWinkle didn’t file income tax returns for 2011 and 2012.

VanWinkle was responsible for collecting payroll taxes for FLI and paying the taxes to the IRS. According to the release, VanWinkle withheld the taxes but didn’t send them onto the IRS. In all, VanWinkle admitted to collecting and keeping $435,896 in federal tax, Social Security and FICA withheld from FLI employee paychecks.

Under the plea deal, VanWinkle agreed to forfeit $4,911,621, a 2013 Holland tractor, a 2007 Hummer H3, a 2012 John Deere till seed drill, and $28,086 seized from his bank accounts.

VanWinkle faces up to 30 years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $750,000 under federal sentencing statutes. The news release said a sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the United States Probation Office completes its investigation.

VanWinkle’s case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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