DENVER – A personal bank statement left on his desk after a layoff provided the first clue that unraveled a three-year scheme by a Cortez bookkeeper to defraud his employer.
The resolution to the case came Monday, when Brian K. Shoults, 42, of Mesa, Ariz., was sentenced to 21 months in prison Monday for tax evasion related to his embezzlement of $255,000 from Office Outpost.
The store’s owner, Ron Curtis, testified in federal court Monday that he narrowly survived bankruptcy and almost lost his house.
“Our business was failing. We went through a terrible four years,” Curtis said. “On top of the theft, the whole economy collapsed.”
As the bookkeeper, Shoults was in charge of writing paychecks and entering expenses into the ledger.
Over the course of three years, Shoults inflated his own paychecks by hundreds or thousands of dollars at a time and forged other expenses in the company’s books to avoid detection.
Shoults’ embezzlement set in motion events that ultimately led to his capture. Curtis testified that he had to lay off staff, including Shoults. It wasn’t until the bookkeeper was gone that Curtis found a bank statement in Shoults’ desk showing a greatly inflated paycheck.
Shoults pleaded guilty in May to four counts of income tax evasion – a federal felony – for not reporting the money he made from his theft on his tax forms. In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors dropped 123 counts of wire fraud, stemming from his use of bank transfers to embezzle the money.
Shoults apologized to Curtis in court Monday and said he was ashamed of himself.
Yet he struggled to explain why he took the money during questioning by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger.
“I’m really not 100 percent sure why I did it. I’ve been thinking about that the last two-plus years,” he said.
Shoults currently is general manager of the Jack in the Box restaurant in the Phoenix area. He is married with a young daughter, and numerous family members and friends wrote letters of support to Krieger, asking for a light sentence.
But Krieger refused, noting Shoults’ criminal history and inability to explain why he defrauded the Cortez business.
Shoults was previously convicted of illegally using a company credit card from a previous job at Panera Bread. He was sentenced to probation in that case.
As part of his plea agreement, Shoults pledged to pay $262,413.16 in restitution to Curtis, as well as $66,616 in federal income taxes.