NEW MADRID, Mo. — A former bartender accused of stealing more than $100,000 from a local American Legion organization has pleaded guilty nearly three years after he was first charged with the crime.
Gary M. Prindle, 89, of Sikeston, who was charged by Scott County in December 2019 with one count of stealing $25,000 or more on or about February 11, 2019, withdrew his initial plea of ”not guilty” and pleaded guilty. “guilty” on September 13 before 34th Circuit Judge William Edward Reeves in New Madrid County.
Previously, a jury trial was scheduled for September 15-16 in New Madrid County for a change of venue.
With his guilty plea on September 13, Prindle was granted a suspended sentence and placed on supervised probation for five years. He was also ordered to return $97,379.05 in full with an initial payment of $20,000 and then $150 each month thereafter, according to online court records.
Prindle is a former bartender at American Legion Post 114 in Sikeston.
Frankie Adams, commander of American Legion Post 114, said the Legion is grateful to the justice system.
“Our veterans and our local community were the victims of crime,” Adams said after the sentencing. “It’s a bittersweet moment.
He continued: “The audacity of someone who was left in charge of running things for the organization would turn their backs on them and rob us. He was given carte blanche to operate the club room and use it for the good of the members. Our trust has been misplaced by greed and addiction – addiction to gambling to use the machines as often as he does.
On Monday, Adams said the Legion was trying to get over the “hard hit” to finances and membership.
“It hurts mentally to find out that our trust has been abused,” Adams said. “Gary abused and manipulated the system and the members. It also had a financial impact on the community.
The Legion could not finance as many projects as it could have and could not expand its property by obtaining building materials and labor locally, according to Adams.
“Now we have the opportunity to move forward and rebuild our trust with the members,” Adams said. “We have a financial report open every month and we can pull any report daily to verify the transaction.”
According to the probable cause statement previously provided by Scott County District Attorney Amanda Oesch’s office, on February 11, 2019, representatives of American Legion Station 114 in Sikeston reported a theft to the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. Then-CFO James Walton and Legion Commander Larry Roach met with DPS Detective Flint Dees.
During his tenure, Walton said he was reviewing the company’s sales records in October 2018, specifically the company’s four Missouri Pull Tab lottery machines, according to the probable cause statement. Walton noticed a large discrepancy in sales totals and funds deposited in the company’s bank in Sikeston, according to the probable cause statement. Walton said he contacted the Missouri Lottery Commission to help figure out how to view and use lottery reports to determine the shortage. Lottery officials agreed that a major shortage had occurred.
Walton said he passed information to the company’s certified public accountant. The accountant prepared a report for the years 2017 and 2018 showing the following stolen funds: 2017 loss on Lottery Pull Tab bank deposits of $69,079.22 and 2018 loss on Lottery Pull Tab bank deposits of $43,218.83 for a total of $112,298.05, according to the probable statement of cause.
In the probable cause statement, Walton explained that the stolen money was collected during play by the four Missouri Lottery electronic pull-tab machines located inside the bar’s members-only area. The stolen money was withdrawn from the machines and was never deposited into the specific bank account for these funds in 2017 and 2018, he said.
According to the probable cause statement, the Missouri Lottery Commission is withdrawing the amount of money owed to it from electronic sales from the Legion’s bank account. The amount that remains after the withdrawal is the profit of the American Legion. A shortage in this account is how Walton and Roach said they were alerted to the problem and began the investigation.
Pull-bar machines pay out 90% of the money played; of the remaining 10%, the Lottery Commissioners retain 80% and the American Legion Post retains the remaining 20%. Any missing funds were taken from the 20% of the American Legion, based on probable cause.
Gaming machines track every transaction made on the machines with an exact timestamp, but not limited to: all player transactions, including money placed in the machine, losses, winnings, bet amounts, game balance, the voucher created to redeem balance credit, etc.; and all employee transactions, including opening the base door to access the ticket roll, opening the cash register to access played money, and deposit notes withdrawn from the cash register by employees , etc.
The duty of the bar manager is to empty the four tills of the machines and make the bank deposit. Money withdrawn from lottery machines is counted, the Missouri Lottery terminal/register is then updated to the standard opening operating balance.
Prindle was the Legion bar manager for nearly eight years, specifically throughout 2017 and until October 2018 when he stepped down. Prindle did morning housekeeping chores six days a week and the other bartender did those chores for him on Sunday mornings because it was his normally scheduled day off, probable cause said.
Prindle managed three bartenders who had limited access to pull tab machines, the lottery register and deposits.
“It was common knowledge to everyone I spoke to that Mr. Prindle came to work early every morning and played tab machines before bar opening time,” Dees said in his statement of probable cause. . “Members knew that Mr. Prindle did this frequently, and it was a very common complaint from other members to bartenders.”
In reviewing the cashier’s pay reports, consistently during the morning shift before opening when Prindle was working, the cash registers of the machines were opened and emptied more than once, Dees said in her statement of probable cause. This is called “additional extraction” of the boxes and is not necessary. The only justification for opening the piggy banks was after the bar had opened and the money was needed to replenish the lottery terminal/register used to pay for winning tickets, he said.
When reviewing full transaction reports for 2018, a day in each month was detailed on which a known shortage occurred, Dees said in his probable cause statement. On all these dates, the tills of the machines were opened more than once before the opening time of the bar.
It is noted by the transaction report that not every day – but routinely in the morning – money would be withdrawn from the cash registers of the machines, then quickly money would be put into the machines to play, then the money would be at again removed from the machine that had just been played, stealing this money, said probable cause.
On several other occasions, money is placed in a machine creating credit – without betting or playing – and a credit voucher is requested by the player for the exact amount, and a winning ticket/voucher is printed. The till was then opened and the money which had just been entered was removed from the till again, thus stealing the money from the till and also stealing the money with the printed voucher when it was cashed. All of these instances occurred while Prindle was at work and doing morning chores, Dees’ probable cause statement said.
All three bartenders denied any involvement in the theft or knowing how or who carried out the theft, the detective said. They said it was normal practice for Prindle to lend and allow them to lend money to certain members of the Missouri Lottery Registry to play drawstring machines. In doing so, they said they were advised to place a note in the drawer stating the member’s name and the amount of the loan. This lent money would be repaid by the member within days, then placed in an envelope with the debtor’s name and Prindle’s name on the outside of the envelope. The bartenders told Dees that they only knew that the envelope had been placed in the ledger and did not know how that money was accounted for, but they would not put it in their ledger total. They all found the activity suspicious, but said they were only doing what their supervisor told them.
‘I spoke with Mr Prindle, and he told me he did not believe the money was missing and it was an accounting error,’ Dees said in his statement. of probable cause. “Mr Prindle offered no other possibility and gave no advice as to what I should investigate to find the missing funds.
Since Prindle’s resignation, revenue from pull machines has increased significantly, according to the probable cause statement. A warrant for Prindle’s arrest was issued on December 27, 2019 and served on January 2, 2020, according to online court records.