WEST BATH, Maine — The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department charged a Bath man Tuesday with embezzling more than $59,000 from a family-owned West Bath construction company where he worked as the office manager since 2007.
Investigators charged Dale Marshall, 56, with Class B felony theft. They allege in part that Marshall embezzled a total of $59,052.40 from excavating contractor J.R. Hill and Sons Inc. by taking money his employers earmarked for payments to vendors.
The company is now scrambling to compensate those vendors.
According to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department, Marshall showed up at the Sheriff’s Department early the morning of Sept. 26 and stated he was there to confess his crimes. He told investigators that since 2007 he had been embezzling money from his employer, J.R. Hill and Sons Inc., and described in detail how he did it.
Marshall told a detective that he altered his methods over time but that in most instances he used the company’s QuickBooks checking program to write checks to himself, print them, and then went back into the program and replaced his name on the check with the name of a vendor. He then would back date the check by several weeks.
The checks ranged from about $50 to $800. When the company’s bank sent back copies of the cashed checks, Marshall allegedly destroyed them.
As another part of the scheme, according to the Sheriff’s Department, Marshall allegedly started compensating himself for vacation time he didn’t have, which appeared on the payroll sheets and is what first raised his employer’s suspicions.
When the owners of J.R. Hill and Sons became aware of Marshall’s alleged vacation time overpayments, they conducted an internal audit, requesting statements from the bank and going through every check made out to Marshall, arriving at a number very close to what the Sheriff’s Department calculated for the total amount of money taken.
Investigators say Marshall told them he used the money he stole from his employer to pay living expenses.
‘Blown out of the water’
Stephanie Hill now serves as office manager for J.R. Hill and Sons Inc. and is the wife of Jamie Hill, president and owner of the family-owned company started in 1970 and located on State Road. In a phone interview Wednesday, she said that the company hired Marshall in 2007 based on his resume and now believes he started taking money only a few months later.
“We originally let him go because he wasn’t performing his duties” and had been warned “numerous times,” Hill said. This behavior was resulting in the company losing work because it missed some bid deadlines, so her husband fired Marshall.
With no office manager, she began looking through the check register and saw a check made out to Marshall for $500 which wasn’t his paycheck just before he was fired.
“Jamie said, ‘I think we need to look this over,’” she said. “We tried to call [Marshall] for almost a week,” and finally sent him a text message imploring him to get in touch with them.
He finally did, she said, asking the Hills to give him the weekend to make some money for his wife before they called the police. Hill said they hoped he would pay them back the money and never intended to call police.
The next Monday morning, Sept. 26, Marshall allegedly confessed at the sheriff’s office. Hill said her husband received a call from the sheriff’s office informing him that Marshall had admitted to stealing money from the company.
When they learned the scope of the alleged embezzlement, “We were blown out of the water,” Stephanie Hill said. “It was overwhelming to say the least.”
The vendors Marshall chose to place on the checks as part of this operation were some of the company’s most trusted vendors, Hill said. Among them are Harry C. Crooker and Sons and Sandelin Precast Products, both of Topsham, that “bent over backward for us.”
She emphasized, “We want to thank our vendors and our creditors. They’ve all been absolutely amazing in working with us on this,” as the company works to pay back everyone it owes and make good on its credit.
Hill also thanked the firm’s customers. She acknowledged that losing this amount of money threatens the small family-run business’s ability to go forward. The company, like others, had to scale back in these difficult economic times.
After the initial shock to her and her husband, “we’ve come to terms with it. I think [Jamie is] feeling good about making a comeback, so to speak.”
Hill said Marshall is remorseful, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He also wrote a letter to her husband apologizing, which they appreciate, “but it is hard to forgive so quickly.”
“We are fortunate enough to have work coming in, and that’s always key to business … right now, a lot of companies don’t and we feel for them,” Hill said. “We feel so fortunate where we have work and we can start picking away at this debt and making it right with everyone.”
Marshall is scheduled to appear in Sagadahoc County Superior Court on Jan. 17, 2012. For a Class B felony theft charge, the district attorney typically would present evidence to a grand jury unless a plea agreement is reached first.
The maximum sentence for a Class B crime is 10 years in prison, according to Title 17-A of the Maine Criminal Code.