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Police charge two with embezzlement

by The Indiana Gazette on April 25, 2013 10:55 AM

State police charged two people with receiving stolen property and several other charges in connection to an excessive amount of expenditures and fraudulent payments from their employer’s account dating to 2004.

Charges against Rickey Lee Guiste, 54, of McIntyre, and Debra J. Guiste, 53, of Kent, were filed Jan. 2 before Magisterial District Judge Susanne Steffee in Homer City. Unsecured bail was set at $5,000 for both.

According to the charging documents, Debra Guiste was hired as office manager at Cummings Landscaping and Nurseries in Armstrong Township, and a subsidiary company, Heritage Homes. She was in charge of all accounts, writing and issuing of checks, creditor accounts, payments and deposits, balance sheets and any necessary accounting information, the documents show. Rickey Guiste was hired as a part-time employee, and was issued a company credit card for work-related expenses.

The companies underwent audits by the IRS in 2007, at which time all company balances equaled out, police reported. The audits continued for the next five years and in 2011, the IRS requested copies of numerous issued checks that needed to be turned over in addition to a review of the balance sheets and account ledgers. The list included checks issued to Sears, a Discover card and Lowe’s. At that time, police reported, Debra Guiste resigned from her position.

Company owners Paula and George Cummings, another office employee and an IRS agent began pulling checks, balance sheets, creditor account sheets and credit card account information, and noticed that several checks were written to one creditor but recorded in the account ledger as going to another, police reported. Upon further review it was discovered that numerous checks were issued to pay off the Guistes’ personal credit cards, which were identical to the company’s.

Police reported that when Debra Guiste would take a check to Sears at Indiana mall, the register would print the credit card account number that she was paying on the back of the check, but it was not that of the company account.

The Cummingses pulled all related checks going back to 2004 for review, police reported. They not only observed a pattern but also found checks that were issued to the Guistes for payment in excess of hours they actually worked. Some checks had been forged and others were signed by the employer, according to police.

The owners discovered $3,306.18 in forged checks to Debra Guiste and $1,992.97 in forged checks to Rickey Guiste for payment in excess of hours worked; $2,463.66 in forged checks to personal credit cards; $13,570.47 in checks to a personal Discover Platinum card that the owners signed, believing they were payment for supplies; $3,429.46 in checks to a personal Sears credit card disguised as payments to the company Sears card; $337.91 in checks to the personal Sears card that the owners signed for payment on another account; $16,199.66 in checks to the personal Discover credit card disguised as payment to the company Discover card; $999.85 in checks to Rickey Guiste’s Lowe’s card disguised as payment to the company Lowe’s card; and an additional payment to a personal Old Navy credit card for which the check has not been located.

Further, police reported, when a review of the company AAA Visa credit card statements was conducted, the owners discovered an excessive amount of expenditures, noting numerous charges outside of their normal purchase pattern. They found $2,219.16 in personal purchases at Walmart, outside of the Cummingses’ purchases, discovered in receipts that were produced, and $1,283.39 in personal purchases at Giant Eagle, outside the owners’ purchases, discovered in receipts. In all, a loss of $45,803.21 was sustained as a result of the transactions.

On Dec. 21, police said Rickey Guiste verbally admitted to making a few personal purchases on the AAA Visa card, and that he knew that he and Debra Guiste made a lot of purchases on their personal credit cards but the balances always seemed to be either low or zero. Rickey Guiste told police that he did not know about the extra money being deposited into his and Debra Guiste’s checking account.

Debra Guiste confessed to police Dec. 27 to stealing the money by writing the checks and having the owners sign them, believing she was paying the company accounts; writing additional paychecks and cashing or depositing in hers and Rickey Guiste’s personal checking account; writing checks and paying on personal credit cards; and making purchases on the AAA Visa card, police reported.

Debra Guiste was charged with felony counts of forgery, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received and access device fraud. Rickey Guiste was charged with misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property and access device fraud.

Both Debra and Rickey Guiste waived their right to a preliminary hearing and chose to face the charges in the county court of common pleas.

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