WBC embezzler sentenced in federal court
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MISSOULA — A former Polson resident accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Western Building Center was sentenced in U.S. District Court Nov. 14. Joshua Davis King, 33, was sentenced to six months in federal prison followed by three years supervised release, the first six months of which he’ll be confined to his home and required to wear a location-monitoring bracelet. King was also ordered to pay a $100 fine and $197,180.44 in restitution, at no interest, to WBC at a rate of $250 per month.
“It’ll be 60 years before he pays it off,” said Polson WBC owner and manager Dave Ottun, King’s former employer.
In 2006, King, then WBC’s tool department manager, began ordering extra tools from WBC suppliers, charging them to WBC and selling them on eBay, unbeknownst to Ottun. King received payment for the tools, which included items such as Dewalt 9 pack combo kits and Makita four-piece tool kits, on his personal PayPal account, according to the federal offer of proof. Buyers in and out of Montana purchased the tools, which constitutes interstate commerce and resulted in King being charged with wire fraud. King kept up the scheme into January 2011 and told investigators he thought he had stolen a total of approximately $280,000 from WBC, the offer of proof states.
Liability insurance only covered $100,000 in losses for the store, and the amount of restitution assigned by the court is nowhere near the $300,000 Ottun believes King’s crime cost the lumber and contractor supply store in the long run. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s judgment on King’s case found WBC’s total loss to be $211,447.18.
Whatever the exact dollar amount, Ottun believes his store only survived King’s tenure because it’s one of a chain of 10 stores in Montana.
“If I was an independent store, (King) would have taken us down,” Ottun said. “It kind of makes you feel like white collar crime does pay … but I have at least some satisfaction that justice has been served. It’s real bittersweet.”
King’s case is the second largest embezzling case to come out of Polson in the past two years. Kathie Sammons, a 52-year-old former branch manager of Whitefish Credit Union, was sentenced in federal court in July 2011 on one count of embezzlement from a credit union and one count of money laundering. She received 30 days jail time on each count, followed by 17 months home confinement with an electronic monitoring device for the first six months.
She also was ordered to pay a $200 fine and $676,872 in restitution at a rate of $400 per month, with interest waived. At that pace, it will take Sammons 140 more years to pay off her debt.
The credit union found out about Sammons’ embezzlement in a surprise audit, but it was a bit more difficult for Ottun to uncover the crime that had been going on under his nose. King’s scheme came to light when Ottun began examining shortages in the store’s inventory, which had escalated over the previous two years.
“It actually took us about a month to uncover (the crime), and (that was) with some real savvy book-keepers working on it,” Ottun remembered.
WBC has since tightened regulations and introduced new policies to prevent a similar scenario from happening again.
“We have a whole lot better stop-gap measures in place corporately,” Ottun noted.
Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine and is a Class C felony, which provides for a maximum of three years supervised release. King was originally charged with five counts of wire fraud, but four counts were dismissed per a plea agreement King signed in August.