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Fargo Petro Stop accountant accused of stealing $190K from store ATMs

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By Emily Welker / The Forum

FARGO – The longtime bookkeeper at a family-owned truck stop here is accused of skimming more than $190,000 from store ATMs over an eight-year period.

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Charles John Putney, 42, of West Fargo, appeared Friday in Cass County District Court on a charge of Class B felony theft.

Deanne Eisenschenk, operations manager for Petro Stopping Center in Fargo and in Minot, said it’s been a shock for the family-owned company.

“We’ve been physically sick,” Eisenschenk said “My dad works here, my mom, my sister-in-law. And then there was Chuck – and he was stealing every day.”

Charging documents filed Oct. 14 in the case against Putney say owner Diane Schatz, Eisenschenk’s mother, reported to Fargo police in February 2012 that her accountant, Putney, had been embezzling funds from the company.

Eisensche

nk said Putney, just out of college, was hired by her family in 1998 to work at the Minot store. They have some employees who’ve been with them for more than 30 years, she said, but at two decades and counting, Putney had been there among the longest.

“He took care of everything. Credit cards, ATM,” she said.

That was part of the problem, as Eisenschenk described it, when Putney called each of her family members individually to tell them he was entering treatment for alcohol addiction. They started doing his job in his absence, she said, and it became clear the numbers didn’t add up.

Court documents allege an Eide Bailly forensic accounting exam found that between June 2004 and November 2012, there was a total of $17,473,020 added to ATMs at Petro. Withdrawals during the same time frame totaled $17,277,600.

So the cash balance total should have been $219,880, according to court records. But it was only $28,060, or $191,820 short, according to the Eide Bailly report.

On several occasions, examiners found the amount withdrawn from the bank accounts was more than the amount filled in the ATMs.

“Eide Bailly said it’s one of the best schemes they’ve seen,” Eisenschenk said.

Prosecutor Reid Brady said the case involved one of the more significant sums of cash taken from a locally owned corporation he’d seen in his time with the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Brady said if the offenses had occurred after Aug. 1 of this year, they would have fallen under a new state law that makes theft of more than $50,000 a Class A felony in North Dakota. A Class B felony has a top prison term of 10 years, but an A felony can mean 20 years.

Mark Friese, Putney’s attorney, said he had only recently received the case documents and could not comment on it. He referred questions to Sarah Monson, Putney’s attorney in a pending civil lawsuit from Eisenschenk and her family against Putney.

Neither she nor Putney could be reached for comment.

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