WAYNESVILLE, Missouri – The Pulaski County Daily News is reporting a former school lunch employee accused of “embezzlement of over $100,000 from the Waynesville R-VI School District school lunch program” dating back more than a decade to 2005 has avoided jail time and will have to pay back $40,288 in restitution, according to Pulaski County Prosecutor Kevin Hillman.
The case against Deanna Lynn House, 50, of Waynesville, dates back to an investigation of her actions between August 2005 and Jan. 26, 2016, according to court documents filed on Dec. 8 by a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigator. The state patrol investigator said the school district conducted a forensic audit after Darrel Vaughan, Waynesville’s assistant superintendent for personnel services, “was notified of a discrepancy regarding bank deposits within the food services office at the administration building of the Waynesville R-VI School District.”
That decision by the district in February of last year to hire an outside company to conduct a forensic audit was made after reviewing a spreadsheet reflecting food service payments and deposits for the 2015-16 school year was created by district staff, with four employees identified as making entries to the database, and $10,500 not accounted for during that school year; further research “revealed missing money from the same department every year beginning in 2005.” Three of the four employees had an “accuracy rate with regard to cash processed and cash deposited” in excess of 99 percent; House’s accuracy rate was “just over seventy six percent” and placed her under suspicion as the person who “was responsible for the missing money.”
The forensic audit covered the period from July 2013 to Jan. 31, 2016, and according to the state patrol investigator, “identified 533 instances where the deposit amount recorded into the school district’s accounting system differed from the deposits to the bank for a total loss of $57,453.80.” All of those entries were made by a person with the user identification of “DEANNA,” which was assigned to Deanna House.
The state patrol investigator submitted his probable cause statement to the Pulaski County Prosecutors Office on Aug. 4 of last year; Hillman filed charges on Dec. 8 accusing her of the Class C felony of receiving stolen property, for which she could have received two to seven years in state prison, or a fine of up to double the offender’s gain from the crime up to a maximum of $20,000.
The case was bound over to Circuit Judge John Wiggins on Dec. 12 and House petitoned the same day to enter a guilty plea. A sentencing assessment report was done in February and on Feb. 17, Wiggins sentenced her to seven years in state prison with suspended execution of that sentence and placed her on five years probation with special conditions including payment of $40,288 victim restitution and 100 hours of community service.
Although Hillman’s announcement said a higher number of more than $100,000 was believed to have been embezzled, and court documents indicate that “total loss of $57,453.80” was identified by the forensic investigators, that lower level of restitution was “the amount of loss not covered by insurance and costs of the investigation to the District.”
The charges against House could have been significantly more serious, the Pulaski County Daily News said.
According to Hillman’s announcement, “Her plea came as part of a negotiated plea agreement where she agreed to enter this guilty plea in exchange for the State not seeking a higher charge of the class B felony of Receiving Stolen Property. The plea was done as an ‘open plea,’ wherein the parties agreed that Judge Wiggins was free to sentence the defendant to any lawful sentence as though the case went to trial and she had been found guilty.”
A class B felony conviction would have carried a sentence of five to 15 years in state prison.