The former billing and payroll clerk for a South Dakota trucking company has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 16 counts of wire fraud.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, claims that Sheila Verbrugge, 50, used her position to divert funds from her employer into her personal accounts.
She pleaded not guilty in federal court on Aug. 25.
According to court records, Verbrugge worked for Blachowske Truck Line, headquartered in Brandon, South Dakota, for approximately 14 years. The family-owned pneumatic tank company, founded by Dwane Blachowske 63 years ago, has 52 power units and 49 drivers.
Over a 10-year period, from January 2010 to April 2020, federal investigators claim that Verbrugge “falsely and fraudulently issued T-Cheks payable to herself” and deposited the money into her personal accounts.
T-Cheks Systems Inc. was acquired by WEX Inc. in 2016. It was previously owned by Electronic Funds Source (EFS). Trucking companies like Blachowske use the electronic funds transfer system to pay truck drivers’ fuel and maintenance expenses while drivers are out on the road.
Each week, T-Cheks emailed an invoice to Blachowske for its charges. The carrier paid the invoice electronically using an automated clearing house (ACH) payment, according to court filings.
On multiple occasions, investigators claim Verbrugge issued T-Cheks payable to herself, but then altered the names on the weekly T-Chek reports to include the names and locations of Blachowske truck drivers. Because of the false information on the reports, Blachowske paid the invoices.
Court documents don’t include the amount Verbrugge is alleged to have siphoned from the motor carrier.
Jeff Peterson, logistics manager for Blachowske Truck Line, told FreightWaves he has no comment because of the ongoing investigation.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy has scheduled Verbrugge’s jury trial for Nov. 3.
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