Missing $55,000 leads to prison for bookkeeper

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Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:00 am

The problems at Quality Foundation Repair began with an incomplete background check and brought the company through a debacle involving a missing $55,000, a felony charge and LL Cool J tickets.

Owner Steve Gnader's first hint that something was wrong came in July, when he noticed missing credit card statements from his Papillion business.

He asked the bookkeeper where they were, and she said she might have taken them home by accident.

While the woman, Donna Schmidthuber, went home to look for them, Gnader logged onto his bank's website. He quickly saw that $10,000 was missing.

When an accountant looked at the books, the number grew to $55,000.

“I'm glad I caught it when I did,” Gnader said. “Because what was she going to do, take me into the ground and payroll starts bouncing and then I find out?”

Monday, Schmidthuber pleaded guilty in Sarpy County District Court to unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, a felony. She was sentenced to two to five years in prison.

She also was ordered to pay restitution to the company's insurance.

“She admitted to everything right away, and she even circled all the things that she stole,” Sarpy County deputy prosecutor Ben Pearlman said.

She also had been convicted of a related felony in Douglas County, and she was sentenced in December to a year in prison in that case.

Because of state sentencing guidelines, she will serve 1½ to three years total.

It turns out Schmidthuber, 38, had a history of stealing: She pleaded no contest in 2010 to theft by deception for stealing $115,000 from another company, and she was still on probation from that previous case.

But a $75 online service Gnader used to check job candidates' background didn't turn up that previous Douglas County offense. So he didn't know about her past when he hired her in late 2012.

At the beginning, she seemed like a great employee, Gnader said.

“She knew her books very well,” he said. “I didn't have to teach her anything.”

He didn't know anything was wrong until July, when he discovered the $10,000 missing.

He brought in an accountant, who found an additional $45,000 missing, Gnader said.

Pearlman said Schmidthuber admitted to spending money on drugs.

He said Schmidthuber used the company credit card to buy plane tickets for her and her friends and to buy items at Target, Walmart and Famous Footwear. She also bought tickets to see rapper LL Cool J in concert and the Los Angeles Lakers in Fort Worth, Texas.

The insurance company reimbursed Gnader $25,000, but he had to eat the rest of the cost, he said.

“I gotta dig myself out of this hole,” he said. “I'm basically starting over.”

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