Woman charged with embezzling from Stewartville Care Center; Over $56K allegedly deposited into personal account

Published 8:33 am Friday, March 29, 2019

An Austin woman is being charged with five counts of felony theft for allegedly embezzling from the Stewartville Care Center (SCC) over the course of five years.

According to the court complaint, an Olmsted County deputy met with an administrator for SCC on Oct. 11, 2018. The administrator reported that he believed Trina Gayle Engler, 41, a former employee, had been embezzling from SCC over the course of five years. Engler’s employment was terminated on Aug. 7, 2018, and since then the staff had discovered unauthorized adjustments adding paid time off to Engler’s account and unauthorized charges to their business credit card.

A detective spoke to staff members on Oct. 18 about Engler’s alleged embezzling from 2014-18. The staff provided documentation on the allegations.

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The detective learned that on Aug. 1, 2018, staff learned that Engler had logged into the payroll system and added additional paid time off to her account. The system is set up to show the username and password of the individual who made changes to the paid time off account, and the detective was given a spreadsheet from November 2015 to July 2018 that showed Engler had routinely added paid time off to her account. In all, $6,193 in unearned paid time off benefits had been added to her account during that time period.

The detective was shown records for the SCC credit card, which Engler used to purchase supplies for the SCC vending machines. Another staff member wrote a check to the credit card company to pay the bill. After Engler was fired, a staff member found a file in Engler’s workspace with records indicating Engler made purchases of unauthorized item using the SCC credit card. There were also unauthorized charges for hotel stays. The total unauthorized charges made from December 2015 through August 2018 were $14,508.43.

Engler was in charge of the SCC’s petty cash fund while she was employed there and after her termination, SCC employees found over $13,000 in unauthorized expenses taken from the petty cash fund. Many of the expenses were for Kwik Trip cards, where SCC would purchase gift cards for their staff. However, the Kwik Trip cards were purchased directly through an online account, not through petty cash.

The detective was informed that SCC owns and operates several apartment buildings, with some tenants paying cash for rent and security deposits. Engler was involved with collecting the rent and security deposits and depositing them into the bank, but a comparison of cash receipts issued to the tenants against the bank deposit records over five years showed that over $50,000 collected in cash rents and deposits was never deposited into the bank.

The detective obtained Engler’s bank account records and noted several large ATM cash deposits, ranging from $100 to $1,000. Sometimes multiple deposits were made on the same day. From March 2016 through August 2018, over $56,000 in cash deposits were made via ATM; however, the detective found no legitimate source of income to explain the deposits. He also noted a large number of purchases that indicated Engler was spending more money than she earned at SCC.

The detective met with Engler on Dec. 7 for a non-custodial interview. Engler admitted she had access to her paid time off account. She denied adjusting her balance, but conceded it was her username and password that had been used to adjust her account and that nobody else would have reason to give her more paid time off. When asked about the SCC credit card, Engler admitted she used it to make unauthorized purchases.

The detective then showed Engler her bank statements with all of the purchases and cash deposits, including a significant deposit and transfer of $6,500 to her savings account in 2016 she used to pay the bank to prevent her house from going into foreclosure. He asked Engler where she was getting the cash for the deposits, then confronted her with the receipts for the security deposits and rent received from the tenants. Engler ultimately admitted to taking cash from the security deposits and rent, saying her spending habits had gotten out of control and she was spending beyond her means. She said she used petty cash to help put money back for the deposits. She denied depositing money from the petty cash account into her account, but could not explain why so many Kwik Trip cards had been charged to petty cash when SCC had already purchased the cards.

Engler will make her first court appearance on April 19.