Sioux County Attorney Melissa O'Rourke announced Monday that a Sheldon woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison following her guilty pleas of stealing more than $150,000 from her employers.
In Sioux County District Court, Sharon Elaine Buchanan, 49, Sheldon, pled guilty to two counts of theft in the first degree (class C felony) and two counts of forgery (class D felony).
Buchanan faced up to 30 years in prison.
O'Rourke described the background of the case in a sentencing memorandum filed with the district court.
O'Rourke stated that Buchanan had been employed as a bookkeeper and office manager at two different ag implement dealers in Sioux County -- Hawke & Company in Alton and Northwest Implement in Orange City. Buchanan worked for Hawke from 1993 to 1999, and later worked at Northwest Implement until October 2005, when she announced she was returning to work for Hawke.
During 2001, while Buchanan was employed at Northwest Implement, the owner Leon Wassenaar (and partner Edwin Kruid, since retired) discovered that funds were missing. The partners confronted Buchanan and she admitted stealing $70,000.
Buchanan pleaded for forgiveness and begged them not to turn her in. Her mother Ruth Morey paid the $70,000 back to Northwest Implement and the partners allowed Buchanan to keep her job. Records show that Buchanan sent a monthly check for $222.04 to her mother as a "loan repayment" - all during the months she continued to steal from Northwest Implement.
Through a scheme of forgeries and thefts, Buchanan continued stealing from Northwest Implement until she left the dealership in October 2005. The records show that she immediately started stealing from Hawke, and stole $21,522.39 during her several months of employment there.
After Buchanan left her employment, Wassnaar hired a new bookkeeper who realized there were problems with the books.
Through her investigation, O'Rourke was able to confirm that Buchanan stole $132,973.52 from Northwest Implement. The dealership and its accountants believe that Buchanan may have transferred other funds in even greater amounts, but they cannot confirm this through financial documentation as they believe she may have destroyed computer or other financial records prior to her resignation so that these transactions cannot be traced.
At Buchanan's sentencing, O'Rourke told Judge Gary Wenell that "Buchanan's acts have had a significant, ongoing impact on Leon Wassenaar, his family, his business, his employees, and his customers."
"The defendant needs to suffer the consequences for what she has done," O'Rourke closed.
Wenell sentenced Buchanan to two ten-year and two five-year prison sentences, all to be served concurrently. The effect is that she was sentenced to a ten-year prison sentence.