Judgment Entered in Theft of Funds by Former Chief's Wife
The wife of former Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie is accused of embezzling more than $400,000 from a local dentist, according to a judgment entered last week in a lawsuit against the couple.
The suit alleges that Allison McKenzie stole $411,674 in cash from her employer, Dr. G.R Horton, from 2005 until she was fired last June. The suit alleges she was acting “in concert and conspiring” with her husband in stealing the money.
No criminal charges have been filed aganst either of the two.
Chris McKenzie resigned as police chief last August while the Pinelake nursing home mass murder trial was under way. He was chief when Robert Stewart went to the nursing home and killed seven elderly patients and a nurse in March 2009.
The suit was filed in September. The McKenzies did not file any response to the lawsuit. They have since moved to Lee County.
Last week, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb granted default judgment to Horton for $436,90l.79 — an amount that included attorneys’ and accountants’ fees and other costs.
Horton’s wife, Linda, in a sworn statement filed with the court, said she had started investigating Allison McKenzie after a patient’s mother asked why the receipt only showed $1,000 when she’d paid $2,000 in cash.
That money was never deposited, according to her affidavit. Another $3,000 cash payment from June 16, 2011, never made it to the bank, an accountant reported.
“We called Allison R. McKenzie the next day, Friday, June 17, 2011, and asked her to come into the office,” Linda Horton said in her affidavit. “We asked her to explain the missing $3,000 in cash, and she said that she did not have it anymore. When we asked her what had happened, she acknowledged to us that she had been stealing cash from us for several years.”
Chris McKenzie was at work in Carthage when his wife phoned for him to come to the dentist’s office, according to court documents.
“She called her husband, defendant Christopher T. McKenzie, and asked him to come to the office because she wanted to discuss the fact that she had been stealing from G.R. Horton, D.D.S., P.A. and had been found out,” Linda Horton said in the affidavit. “When he arrived, she again repeated that she had been stealing for several years and she and Christopher T. McKenzie stated to us that they would try to pay back everything she had stolen.”
The Hortons hired certified public accountant Kenneth Dickson and the Van Camp, Meacham & Newman law firm to determine the size of the loss, according to the affidavit. She turned over computer-generated daily account details showing patients’ payments and whether they were cash, credit card or some other form.
“Through our investigation, we were able to determine that defendant Allison R. McKenzie would, on numerous occasions and on a nearly daily basis, fail to include all or a portion of the cash payments received from patients on the deposit slip and that those cash payments were never deposited,” Horton said in her statement. “(She) would enter data into the accounting software and show the total receipts for a particular day.
“She would then go back and delete the data specifically as it was related to cash collections for a particular day.”
An analysis of cash receipts versus deposits provided to the court shows the first alleged theft coming from a $198 payment on Feb. 1, 2005, where only $50 was deposited and the $148 difference, allegedly stolen. On Feb. 10, another $288 in cash went missing.
Amounts that first year show varying sums of currency from as little as $16 on May 23 to as much as $923 in July allegedly stolen.
A summary claims the following amounts were stolen each year: $8,988.09 in 2005; $34,861.27 in 2006; $62,341.74 in 2007; $80,228.56 in 2008; $92,216.06 in 2009; $79,932.37 in 2010; and $53,106.60 in 2011 by the time of the June confrontation, according to court documents.
Based “on information and belief” (as stated in documents filed with the court), the Horton firm accused Allison McKenzie of stealing the cash “in concert or conspiring with” her husband. Both were named as defendants in the civil suit.
Chris McKenzie deferred comment to his attorney, Michael Rowland, of Carthage. Rowland said McKenzie contacted him last week — far too late to mount any defense to the suit, Rowland said in a telephone interview.
“Chris came to me for a consultation,” Rowland said. “At this point, he is exploring his options in terms of responding. He didn’t get a response in, in a timely fashion, and at this point it’s too late.”
A default judgment means one party prevails because the other failed to meet a court deadline. The result now is that the McKenzies’ assets are vulnerable.
“As far as I know currently, I am not aware of any criminal actions pending,” Rowland said. “I don’t know if there is any intention by anyone to seek criminal action. I think that, clearly, they’ve got a civil remedy that they’ve sought.”
State Bureau of Investigation agents examined computer drives and other material from the Carthage Police Department, then returned them. No criminal charges have been filed against either the former chief or his wife.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 14, 2011, accused Chris McKenzie of “fraud and misconduct” in connection with Allison McKenzie’s alleged “embezzlement, theft, conversion, and fraud regarding the misappropriation of funds from the dental practice” and contended the former chief “was complicit in the illegal conduct” of his wife “and, upon information and belief conspired and planned” with her “to engage in the unlawful conduct,” according to court documents.
Rowland said “information and belief” is legalese that means “we don’t have absolute proof, but we believe this to be so.”
“It is basically saying we think that if we dig in we are going to find information to substantiate this,” Rowland said. “It’s a belief, not a fact. What I would say on the record is that — unfortunately — he did not receive counseling at an early stage in the proceedings, didn’t get his responsive pleadings in, in a timely fashion.
“As a result, as a matter of law, the default was issued. Now they have some difficult decisions.”
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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