WADENA, Minn. - A former employee had admitted to stealing around $80,000 from customers of her ex-employer Merickel Lumber.
 
Brenda Rae Bakken, 57, entered a guilty plea to felony theft by swindle last week. Over two-and-a-half years, Bakken - as Merickel's accountant - skillfully manipulated customer charges.
 
"I moved money around in accounts, paid it back here and there, and it just -- it got out of hand, and I just lost control of it," she said at a January 22 hearing, reports the Pioneer Journal.
 
The company knew something was up, so it launched a full audit and investigation.
 
"She falsified customer statements that overstated the amount due – when they paid the over-stated amount, she stole that money to pay back other accounts," office manager Missy Seelhammer wrote in an email to the Journal. "She paid them back with someone else’s money, which is not her paying it back."
 
Merickel has paid back all affected customers, it says. Only a few isolated customers were scammed.
 
Bakken must serve 10 days in jail and 30 days house arrest. She must also pay a $1,000 restitution, as well as $79,036 to Merickel.
 
 

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