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Published May 02, 2013, 09:35 AM

Woman denies theft of $17,000 from elevator

A former employee has denied embezzling more than $17,000 from the Gregory (S.D.) Farmers Elevator.

By: Chris Mueller, Forum News Service

BURKE, S.D. — A former employee has denied embezzling more than $17,000 from the Gregory (S.D.) Farmers Elevator.

Melissa Vosika, 29, appeared in court May 1 in Burke, S.D., and pleaded not guilty to seven counts of embezzlement, three counts of altering corporate records, three counts of forgery and one count of attempted embezzlement.

Vosika allegedly deposited four checks from Gregory Farmers Elevator into her personal account at Consumer’s Federal Credit Union. Three of the checks were for $2,063.94 and one was for $537.25, according to a complaint filed in December.

The remaining three counts of embezzlement do not specify Vosika made deposits into her account, but do say she intended to defraud the elevator of $10,824.83.

Court documents also say Vosika wrote three checks to herself and changed the payee in corporate records to Farmers Ranchers Cooperative. She was charged with the three counts of forgery because she allegedly altered the three checks.

The checks were drawn from the Gregory Farmers Elevator account at BankWest in Gregory and made payable to Vosika, court documents say.

The attempted embezzlement charge claims she intended to defraud the elevator of $7,565.39, but provides no additional details.

Altogether, Vosika is alleged to have embezzled $17,553.90 from the elevator from May to September 2012.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for each count of embezzlement, for each count of altering corporate records and the count of attempted embezzlement. She faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count of forgery. Vosika’s next court date has not yet been scheduled, according to the Gregory County Clerk of Courts Office.

Last month, the state Public Utilities Commission revoked Gregory Farmers Elevator’s grain buyer’s and warehouse licenses because of financial problems. PUC Chairman Gary Hanson says he does not believe the alleged illegal activity by Vosika was a significant factor in the loss of the elevator’s licenses.

“Her activity was certainly indicative of how the facility was being run,” he said. “But the loss of the $17,000 did not cause the facility to lose its license.”

In March, the PUC’s Grain Warehouse Division became aware the elevator was without sufficient working capital and was operating with unpaid obligations to producers, which ultimately led to the revocation of the licenses.

“They could have withstood a loss of $17,000 if everything else had been run properly,” Hanson says.