Tuesday, July 22, 2014

South Weber city councilman charged with embezzling funds

By McKenzie Romero and Andrew Adams, Deseret News

Published: Fri, March 28 12:05 a.m. MDT

 A South Weber councilman has been charged with embezzling more than $200,000 from an assisted living center in Bountiful that he used to manage.

A South Weber councilman has been charged with embezzling more than $200,000 from an assisted living center in Bountiful that he used to manage.

(Shutterstock)

SOUTH WEBER, Davis County — A South Weber city councilman has been charged with embezzling more than $200,000 from an assisted living center he used to manage.

William Michael Poff, 40, was charged Wednesday in 2nd District Court with three counts of communications fraud, a second-degree felony.

"It was taking me under," said Bruce Morrison, owner of Welcome Home Assisted Living. "There's not a ton of profit in assisted living, but it just about bankrupt us."

From 2008 to 2010, Poff was manager of the assisted living center in Bountiful. During that time, he applied for several credit cards in his name, made several thousand dollars' worth of purchases on them, and then used proceeds from the assisted living center to pay off his debt, according to charging documents.

At the same time, Poff took out several credit cards in the name of the business and racked up several thousand more dollars worth of purchases for items investigators say were for his personal use, the charges state.

"(Poff) also took several thousands of dollars from the business and deposited them into his own personal bank accounts and used the proceeds from those accounts for his own personal use," according to the charges.

Morrison said Poff also handled the mail for Welcome Home, making it easy for him to hide his actions. Eventually a notice from the IRS reached Morrison, warning that the company was going to be penalized for failing to pay quarterly taxes.

When Morrison confronted Poff, one question led to another, and Poff was placed on a three-day leave while Morrison tried to sort out what was happening. After that, Morrison told Poff not to come back to work.

"We knew it was serious, so I hired an accountant to audit all the books," said Morrison, who turned the case over to detectives nearly a year and a half ago.

Davis County deputy attorney Steve Major called the case "a very typical type of embezzlement" when it comes to small businesses.

"What we recommend is don't have one person do both the income and paying the bills," Major warned. "If you do, make sure you go in once a month or every other month and do an audit of the business."

The allegations against Poff don't extend to any other businesses or his responsibilities with the City Council, Major said.

Welcome Home's losses exceed the $200,000 listed in the charges against Poff, according to Morrison.

Morrison is still making monthly payments for late fees and unpaid balances on the credit cards, interest and penalties on late taxes, as well as fines for not paying for unemployment insurance for the company's employees.

Morrison said he is hoping for financial restitution.

"I could use that money to help get out of this mess," he said. "It will be (a problem) for a couple of years."

In addition to the financial damage, the situation has been painful emotionally, Morrison said.

"I was just very trusting. I thought Michael was an extremely good friend of mine," Morrison said. "Turns out he wasn't."

South Weber city officials issued a statement Thursday indicating they will take action "if and when appropriate." In the meantime, the city defers to the Davis County Attorney's Office, according to the statement.

"These are serious charges dealing with the personal life of a public official," the statement reads. "According to the charges against council member Poff, they are not related to his service on the City Council."

According to the South Weber City Council website, Poff was elected in 2012. His responsibilities include overseeing the city's youth city council, Eagle Scout and youth service projects, and economic and commercial development.

Poff did not respond to requests for comment. An initial court appearance is scheduled for April 30.

Contributing: Pat Reavy

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, aadams@ksl.com

Recommended
1. Wixom
Bountiful, UT,
March 30, 2014

There are enough stories like this that you wonder why anyone would think they could get away with this kind of theft. Although the answer is unknown it would be really interesting to know if many (any) actually get away with it. Once again others' lives have been messed up by the perp's actions along with his own and his family's - for years. So why do people do this stuff?