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VanNess working to pay back embezzled funds

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The imposition of sentencing for a former Ronan auto parts store manager was deferred for six years to allow him time to pay back the more than $84,000 he was convicted of stealing.

Tracey Matthew VanNess, 40, was convicted of felony theft during a change of plea hearing at District Court in Polson on Aug. 8.

According to court records, on Feb. 21, Ronan police were called to the Carquest store to investigate a possible case of embezzlement involving two employees. The initial accounting of the business determined that VanNess embezzled a total of $53,611.27 between September 2016 and February 21 of this year. Further investigation showed the amount stolen came to a total of $84,860.

A second employee, Melissa Ann Miller, 33, was convicted of stealing $1,668.52 between Oct. 20, 2018, and January 30 of this year. She is also paying restitution on a six-year deferred sentence.

The two both falsified item returns to their own credit cards. Some of VanNess’ thefts involved cash. The thefts were discovered during a subsequent audit of the business after it was sold to new owners in September 2018.

District Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher said although the terms of sentencing conflicted with the wishes of the victims, the “primary purpose was to make the victims whole.”

VanNess’ attorney, Britt Cotter, of Polson, requested that an $800 public defender fee be stricken, as he was retained privately. 

Cotter also said that his client has paid back $1,700 as of the day of sentencing, which was Oct. 17.


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