Missouri man convicted of embezzling $4.9 million from motor carrier

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 9/23/2014

A former employee of a large Missouri motor carrier will serve nearly six years behind bars after being convicted of embezzling $4.9 million.

David VanWinkle, 61, of Neosho, Mo., was sentenced on Friday, Sept. 19 by U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner to serve five years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. VanWinkle had previously pleaded guilty and waived his right to a trial.

For 22 years, 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.

Court documents in the case show the crimes damaged the 100-truck company. FLI, which transports dry van and flatbed loads, struggled enough that its more than 100 employees took voluntary pay cuts to try and keep the company afloat. Prosecutors said VanWinkle had developed a “close, personal relationship” with the company’s owners, a news release states.

“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,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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 for paying the taxes to the IRS. According to the release, VanWinkle withheld the taxes but didn’t send them on to 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 owes $4,911,621. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports it has seized a 2013 Holland tractor, a 2007 Hummer H3, a 2012 John Deere no-till seed drill and $28,086 from VanWinkle’s bank accounts.

John Nunez, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the U.S. Marshal’s Service will auction off VanWinkle’s forfeited equipment to get the victim as much restitution as possible.

“After that, the defendant will be required to start making payments toward restitution to make up the difference,” Nunez said. “He will be required to continue paying restitution to the victims until he pays that full amount.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation division.

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