Utah trucking company ex-payroll manager pleads guilty to charges related to embezzlement

Truck from Parke Cox Trucking

The former payroll manager of a Utah trucking company has switched her plea to guilty on charges connected to an embezzlement scheme that cost Parke Cox Trucking about a half-million dollars.

Danielle Apadaca-Roberts, according to local press reports in the St. George News, changed her plea to guilty this week in federal district court in Utah. The initial legal complaint filed against her in April says she worked at a company called P.C.T.. beginning in 2006, but  Shanna Lelli, a consultant with the company, confirmed to FreightWaves that Apadaca-Roberts worked at Parke Cox Trucking. She was payroll manager from February 2016 to June 2019.

“We never would have believed she could have done that,” Lelli, a consultant with the company, told FreightWaves.

The federal charges to which Apadaca-Roberts has now pleaded guilty are wire fraud and filing a false report in her income taxes. Apadaca-Roberts’ attorney, Wojciech S. Nitecki, a public defender, said no state charges were filed against Apadaca-Roberts. 

According to the St. George News, Apadaca initially pleaded not guilty.

Nitecki described her change as part of a plea bargain. It is unclear what sentence Apadaca could face. The St. George News report said she is not in custody while awaiting sentencing. 

False expenses reports for drivers created as part of the scheme

According to the original charge, when Apacada was payroll manager, she would create false expense reports for truck drivers who were in the Parke Cox Trucking system. She would then put one of her accounts, rather than those of the truck drivers named in the fraudulent expense reports, as the destination account for the false payments.

“Apacada-Roberts concealed the false reimbursements by suppressing the computer-generated email notifications to the truck drivers,” the initial charges from April said. 

She then created an automated clearing house (ACH) transfer file, which had both legitimate expenses and the false ones created by Apacada, and gave that file to the bank. “The bank then processed the file, resulting in interstate wire transmissions and payments for the false expense reimbursements, which were deposited into Apacada-Roberts’ credit union account and other accounts for her benefit,” the initial charge said.

Lelli described Apadaca’s embezzlement as “diabolical.” She said Parke Cox was first tipped off to the embezzlement when the company noticed that two drivers who logged roughly the same miles were paid significantly different amounts because of the false expense reports. 

Lelli said Apadaca’s actions were a “huge betrayal,” magnified by the fact that her mother had worked for the company for 25 years as well. As the company uncovered the embezzlement, information was turned over to the FBI, Lelli said. 

The charge of illegal use of interstate wire communications only involves one such instance: $3,600 on March 2, 2018, to a JP Morgan Chase account. The money was to be used to pay rent for a relative of Apadaca.

The two income-tax related charges are that in 2017, Apadaca filed an income tax return with income declared of $51,466 in a year during which her additional income from the embezzlement was $181,874, The following year, she declared income of $50,459 when the additional income was $216,684. 

While that does not add up to $500,000, Lelli said other missing funds above those in the income tax charges were found later as the investigation unwound. 

She described Parke Cox as a family-owned business “and it’s been difficult here to deal with the betrayal.”

As far as lessons that other companies can take from the incident, Lelli said the company’s controls that were in place were probably not adequate. Parke Cox recently added a controller “who would have found this.” But if it had gone on, “it could have put us out of business.”

Parke Cox has approximately 85 power units and 95 drivers. It is mostly a dry van company and operates in all lower 48 states.

More articles by John Kingston

In case involving human trafficking charges by Mexicn truck driver, insurance company Landmark won’t be defending

Two ratings agencies cut GlobalTranz rating deeper into junk territory

Now playing on YouTube: A cinematic love letter to the trucking industry