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Missing money

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Salem biz owner wants teller prosecuted for taking money from night deposits

Salem business owner Debbie Fountain has accused the Salem city attorney and the Arkansas State Police of failing to bring to justice a former Bank of Salem employee who admitted to stealing money from Fountain's night deposits.

The accusation is found in a Dec. 6 Arkansas Business article entitled "Bank Theft Victim Wants Teller Punished," by Mark Friedman.

According to the article, Fountain, who owns Salem Fuel Center, has accused Salem city attorney Dwayne Plumlee of refusing to bring charges against former bank teller Sandra Layne because Plumlee is a member of the Bank of Salem's Board of Directors.

But Bank of Salem President Mark Montgomery said that is not the case.

"We have never attempted to protect this former employee from the legal process," Montgomery said. "It is our position that this former employee should be prosecuted in accordance with the law."

Montgomery said that Fountain, who continues to do business with the Bank of Salem, has never asked the bank for reimbursement from the thefts.

"If she would give us written documentation as to how much money was stolen, we would gladly pay her," Montgomery said.

Fountain claimed Layne stole over $12,000 from her, according to Arkansas Business.

Montgomery said he doubts Layne took that much money, but if Fountain could prove it, the bank would reimburse her.

Fountain refused to talk to The News about the article or the case.

"No, I don't think so," she said when asked to comment.

Plumlee, who also serves as the deputy prosecutor in the 16th Judicial District, also refused to comment about the case.

Salem Police Chief Al Roork said Fountain's accusations stem from an investigation in June.

Roork said Salem police began escorting the Salem Fuel Center deposit each night after Fountain informed them money was being taken from it.

After he and Fountain ruled out the possibility it was a Salem Fuel employee taking the money, Roork said, they focused on the bank.

On June 29 a Salem Fuel Center employee deposited $1,903 through the night deposit box at the Bank of Salem. Roork said he "personally counted" the money before it was deposited.

An undisclosed amount was missing from the deposit when it was counted at the bank the next morning, he said.

Montgomery said he was informed of the thefts and on July 8 he arrived at the bank early and counted the Salem Fuel Center deposit before Layne arrived.

After Layne counted the deposit it was short $60, Montgomery said.

He said this was the only time in the 21 years he's worked at the bank that an employee had been caught stealing.

Layne was not allowed to count night deposits before other employees arrived, despite what the Arkansas Business article stated, Montgomery said.

He said the bank has instituted new policies to ensure that a similar problem does not arise in the future.

Montgomery said the Salem Fuel Center deposits have always been filled with mathematical errors.

"Debbie got tired of us calling her to fix her deposits. We came to an agreement that we would fix them without notifying her," he said.

This agreement made it more difficult to catch money losses in Salem Fuel Center's account, Montgomery said.

Arkansas State Police Lt. Bill Beach said the investigation into the theft is still open. He said he is unable to divulge any information about the ongoing investigation.

Marc Hollingsworth is handling the investigation.

Sixteenth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden said if felony charges are leveled against Layne a prosecutor other than Plumlee will be assigned to the case.



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