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Liberty couple charged in multimillion-dollar fraud scheme

Updated: 2013-04-11T04:58:49Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

When a federal agent first asked Laura DeJong about the embezzlement of millions from her employer, the Liberty woman allegedly laughed it off.

“If that were true, I would be sitting on a beach somewhere,” DeJong purportedly responded.

Maybe she was just giving the agent a lead?

According to federal fraud charges filed Wednesday, DeJong and her husband allegedly spent at least $100,431 on eight cruise vacations, despite her never netting more than about $22,000 a year from her job as a manufacturing company bookkeeper.

Her husband, Craig DeJong, once described his work on a resume as a “caretaker of children and elderly parents,” yet he, with his wife, gambled away millions of dollars at casinos from Iowa to New Orleans, prosecutors say.

The charges say that Laura DeJong, 54, embezzled more than $2.6 million from Kansas City Screw Products between 2003 and 2011 by forging checks drawn on her employer’s accounts.

But the spending didn’t just stop at casinos and on balmy vacations, according to the charges.

Prosecutors say the couple bought vehicles, boats, a travel trailer, a Liberty home and season tickets and track passes to the Kansas Speedway.

The couple also purportedly bought a Chiefs party bus to go with their club-level Chiefs season tickets and membership in the Wolfpack Club.

DeJong faces one count of mail fraud and one count of filing false tax returns. Prosecutors charged her 55-year-old husband with a single count of filing a false tax return.

In February 2012, her employer sued her in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging she had embezzled nearly $2.7 million while on the job. The suit also named two banks as defendants, saying they should have caught the alleged forgery and check kiting that made the embezzlement possible.

That suit is scheduled for trial in July.

Both DeJongs made an initial court appearance Wednesday and, through their lawyers, pleaded not guilty. A judge released them on bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown asked that both be ordered not to gamble while on pretrial release, noting that the couple continued to visit casinos for a month after Laura DeJong allegedly confessed to the scheme in late November 2011.

“Both defendants should be prohibited from going into any casino or gambling establishment,” Brown said. “Millions of dollars were gambled at local casinos and casinos not in this area.”

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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