A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a wife and husband from Liberty to prison for their role in a nearly $2.7 million embezzling and check kiting scheme and for filing a false tax return.
Laura Dejong, 55, received the stiffer sentence from U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole. The judge sentenced her husband, 56-year-old Craig Dejong, to 21/2 years in prison.
The judge also ordered the Dejongs to pay $3.3 million in restitution to their victims, including $2,679,227 to Kansas City Screw Products, $482,711 to the Internal Revenue Service and $138,780 to two financial institutions.
In June, Laura Dejong pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Both Dejongs pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.
Laura Dejong worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for Screw Products, a metal fabrication business in Kansas City, for about 23 years. She admitted embezzling the $2.7 million from January 2003 to November 2011. She forged checks drawn on two company bank accounts.
She falsely inflated the balances in those accounts by kiting checks so she could steal more money. The check kiting began in late June 2011. Central Bank ultimately lost $97,015.
Meanwhile, according to court documents, the two gambled $4.5 million from January 2002 to December 2011, mostly on slot machines.
Court records also show the couple spent more than $100,000 on eight cruises, vacations and airfare between 2005 and 2011. In addition, court records suggest they used stolen money to buy their home, a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, a 2009 Honda Accord, a 20-foot boat and trailer, a 1985 recreational vehicle and season tickets to Kansas Speedway and the Kansas City Chiefs.
As part of their pleas, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson, the Dejongs forfeited the home in Liberty and the other property they bought with the embezzled funds. Those assets will be used as restitution to the victims.
The Dejongs admitted filing joint tax returns for several years that did not declare the embezzled money. During this time, Laura Dejong never earned more than $33,333 from Screw Products. Craig Dejong showed no income.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown.