SALT LAKE CITY — Not being able to serve an LDS Church mission because his girlfriend became pregnant devastated Nathan Kapp.

The shame of failing to follow in his brothers' missionary footsteps, of being kicked out of Ricks College, of disappointing his family and tight-knit religious community rocked him to the core. The scholar and athlete, the "perfect kid" had messed up in a big way, according to his attorney Daphne Oberg.

Kapp took responsibility for his daughter, married the woman and tried to make a life for his family, which eventually included two more daughters.

But he never seemed to get ahead. And he continued to think of himself as a failure. Kapp took a job as an accountant with Don Julio Foods in Clearfield where he decided to "borrow" money for a down payment on a house. Owning a home, he rationalized, would show people back in Idaho Falls that he wasn't a failure. And besides, he would pay it back before anyone noticed.

He never paid it back, and in fact he skimmed a little more here and there for "emergencies." When his employer discovered the theft, Kapp pleaded guilty to misdemeanor communications fraud and spent 72 days in jail.

In the meantime, his wife left him, taking his beloved daughters with her. Crushed again, he spiraled further downward.

After his release from jail, Kapp found a new job as an accountant with C.R. England Trucking making $45,000 a year. But the feelings of worthlessness persisted. Paying alimony, child support and living expenses left him little. More than ever, court documents say, he wanted to prove to the world he was worth something. He wanted to give more to his daughters for letting them down. He told them he was a changed man.

Cash repeatedly crossed his desk at C.R. England, and he started to pocket some — totaling more than $1.3 million over four years. The money made his life easier. He bought things for his daughters. He appeared successful. But he wasn't happy. He knew he was living a lie. He felt numb.

Then he met Jamilyn. They fell in love and married in an LDS temple. All the while his illicit "side job" — a bookkeeping business he told his new wife — thrived. He had a son. He bought a house, drove a Lexus, paid for with cash. He became a leader of young men in his LDS ward.

And, court documents say, his family, friends and the people he grew up with in Idaho Falls thought he had redeemed himself and considered him a success.

Kapp's time at the top was short lived.

When his employer confronted him about missing funds last year, Kapp lied, even knowing he had stolen cash in his desk drawer at the time. Kapp wanted to confess, but "I was too much of a coward."

Eventually, though, Kapp, 36, of Syracuse, was caught and pleaded guilty to money laundering in federal court. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups sentenced him Tuesday to 30 months in prison and 36 months of probation upon his release. Kapp already returned a substantial amount of the stolen money, but still must pay nearly $670,000 in restitution.

As the controller for C.R England's driving school in Utah, California, Texas and Indiana, Kapp reconciled an account for tuition from students who often paid in advance and in cash. Students who paid in cash received a handwritten receipt, a copy of which, along with the money, was placed in a locked box that was delivered to Kapp. Starting in January 2007, he made hundreds of deposits to his personal account at America First Credit Union.

"There's nothing I can say that's going to make things right, I know that," he said in court Tuesday.

Kapp apologized to his employer, saying "I misused their trust." He apologized to his family, which packed the courtroom to support him. "I really didn't know how much I was hurting them," he said through tears.

His wife, Jamilyn, has chosen to stand by him, even though "he has turned my life upside down." She said she knows his heart, who he truly is.

Oberg, who argued for a 13-month sentence, said Kapp sees a counselor and now understands his "thinking errors" and his "mixed-up justification" for stealing the money.

Prosecutor Loren Washburn doesn't quite buy it. "The story that he stole for his children quite honestly was very difficult for me to read," he said. Fathers, he said, don't steal to make their children happy. They don't tell them they're honest when they're not. They teach honesty by living it.

"This second crime is even worse than the first because he professed he had changed," Washburn said.

Furthermore, he knew his wife would suffer because he had been down that road before, "yet that didn't stop him." The hypocrisy, lying and deception in his life "ran very, very deep."

"Mr. Kapp has shown he is difficult person to deter," Washburn said.

Kapp's mission in life now is prove the doubters wrong and to make amends for his mistakes. He reports to prison July 26.

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