Sioux Falls, SD
Most family-run companies in KELOLAND are used to doing business on a handshake. Long-term employees are valued and trusted.
But the company that runs Sioux Falls school buses had its trust broken. A long-time employee was sentenced to a year in prison on Monday for stealing more than a half million dollars from School Bus Inc.
School Bus Inc. has had a contract with the Sioux Falls School district since 1979 to run its buses.
The small, family owned company was started by Chuck Hey and now his son, Steve, is president. With only a handful of office workers, no one expected one of them to steal from the company. And getting the money back? Well that's a whole other story.
Crystal Neuman walked into Federal Court on Monday to learn her fate after pleading guilty to stealing more than $500,000 from School Bus Inc.
Steve Hey's dad hired Neuman in 1998 as a favor.
"My dad was good friends with Don Dunham of Dunham Companies and they had employed Crystal prior to us and they had actually terminated her for this same type of behavior for stealing from their company," Steve Hey said.
Neuman stole $900 from Dunham Companies, but Dunham wanted Chuck to give her another chance, so he did.
"She did her job very well. We promoted her to assistant manager and over the years came to place a great deal of autonomy and trust in her in terms of what she was doing," Hey said.
Neuman was in charge of payroll and admits to writing checks to herself from School Bus Inc. beginning in 2006.
"We did not suffer at all in terms of our ability to serve our customers, but it certainly has had profound impacts on our business both economically and emotionally," Hey said.
The company discovered unauthorized checks to Neuman last summer, turned the case over to police and fired her. By law, the company had to pay her money from her profit sharing account, which totaled about $80,000.
"We didn't have any choice to release it to her when she made the request to withdraw those funds, Hey said.
Angela Kennecke: What should have happened with that money?
Hey: Obviously, it would have been proper for restitution and to pay us back at least a part of all this, but again that wasn't our decision to make.
Neuman has paid $5,000, but last spring still had $43,000 in her bank account.
Kennecke: They paid you $80,000 from your retirement account after they knew you stole from them; why didn't you pay?
Man with Neuman: Why are you harassing us?
Kennecke: Why didn't you pay them back anything?
Neuman refused to answer.
In court, Neuman said she was sorry, but didn't have anything to say as she left the courthouse.
Kennecke: Would you like to say anything to School Bus Inc?
Man: You're harassing us.
The unidentified man with Neuman became hostile as we tried to question her.
"This is garbage. You've got to be kidding me," he said.
School Bus Inc. also received some other bad news. Because they knew Neuman had stolen money from her previous employer, they can't collect insurance money on their losses.
"Knowledge under provisions of the polices involved voided coverage with respect to any acts that Crystal may have committed," Hey said.
Kennecke: When you found that out, what did you think?
Hey: Obviously very disappointing and very much caught us by surprise.
The judge has ordered Neuman to pay back the amount she took in full.
Kennecke: Do you think you'll ever see that money back?
Hey: We’re realistic about it. We don't know for sure obviously, but we hope obviously whatever we can get back, we will accept.
School Bus Inc. has switched from an in-house payroll system to a third-party administrator and implemented more internal controls.
Neuman's attorney says she used the money to help her family members, including her grown children.
Her ex-boyfriend, who didn't want to go on camera, say Neuman had taken her family to Las Vegas.
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