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Possible embezzlement probed at Kmart

Spanish Fork store is missing $500,000 over 7 years

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SPANISH FORK — Police are investigating whether a Kmart employee embezzled nearly $400,000 from a Spanish Fork store.

The woman, whose name police have not released, worked at the store for 26 years. The woman used Western Union money orders to direct cash away from the store into her own pocket, said Spanish Fork Police Sgt. Brandon Anderson.

Her employment has been terminated, but she has not been arrested nor have criminal charges been filed against her.

"I think it was just a pattern that they had discovered through different figures that weren't adding up," Anderson said.

Store employees contacted police in early January when they noticed suspicious numbers in the financial records, Anderson said.

Employees told police they thought the thefts might have been going on for up to seven years.

As far as Anderson knows, Western Union was always paid. However, police believe the woman would change store records to allow her to take from the money orders without the store noticing.

Police believe she mostly took small amounts. Some amounts, though, were at the maximum money order level of $500, Anderson said.

She would either forge money orders to herself or to her creditors, and even cashed some money orders with other people's names on them, Anderson said.

The Spanish Fork Police Department handed over information last week to the body responsible for filing charges — the Utah County Attorney's Office — but is continuing to work with Kmart to figure out exactly how much money was taken.

In an interview with store personnel, the woman — who worked in the back offices with access to the sales accounts and money orders — allegedly confessed to taking $390,000. However, the store is short nearly $500,000.

"It's still ongoing," Anderson said of the internal Kmart investigation. "Kmart is just going through a lot of figures."

Some of the investigation is slow because Western Union has the receipts and records of the money orders.

Kmart officials could not comment on any specifics of the investigation at this point, other than to say that the police involvement came out of an internal investigation.

"We're cooperating with local authorities, but since it's an ongoing investigation we're referring comment to the police," said Kim Freely, spokesperson for Sears Holdings, a merger of Sears and Kmart.

There are 18 Kmart stores in Utah.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com