The former manager of the Midas auto shop in Cortez pleaded guilty April 18 to both felony and misdemeanor theft from the business, which has since been re-organized as America’s Auto Care center.
Nathan Wilkinson, 38, was accused of stealing more than $75,000 in money, goods and services from the Midas franchise through a variety of schemes.
Wilkinson was arrested last October following an investigation by Cortez Police Detective Jennifer Goodall after his practices raised concerns for owner Cody Dennison.Goodall’s affidavit contains numerous accounts of the ploys Wilkinson used to milk money from the business, a favorite being to “void” sales receipts after a transaction was completed and pocket the proceeds.
He was fired last July after his duplicity began to unravel, sparked by a customer’s complaint that the new tires installed on his vehicle were the wrong size, according to the affidavit.
When finance manager Susan Carver tried to look up the transaction in the company’s records, however, she found only a “voided ticket,” indicating the sale had not gone through. That customer, who had a receipt for the tires, recalled that Wilkinson had asked him to pay in cash, and had been acting “strange” at the time.
A subsequent audit by Midas found more than 50 tickets totaling over $16,000 had been voided by the suspect, according to the affidavit.
Wilkinson was alleged to have ordered dozens of tires through a wholesaler not usually used by the business, then to have sold them for cash and intercepted the invoices when they arrived in the mail. Carver said she first became aware of this situation when the vendor called and said a bill for nearly $15,000 was past due.
In her affidavit, Goodall said that based on information supplied by Carver and Dennison, she had compiled a spreadsheet showing that just over $75,000 had been drained from the business through missing deposits, unauthorized discounted parts, work done on personal vehicles, voided receipts, cash and tire sales not entered into the company’s data base and other methods.
Although sentencing is set for June 4 after a pre-sentencing investigation is conducted, the plea agreement stipulates that Wilkinson will be placed on probation for two years and pay restitution of at least $60,000.
Under the terms of the agreement, the guilty plea on the felony theft charge is being treated as a “deferred judgment and sentence,” meaning if Wilkinson complies with the conditions of his probation, it will be dismissed.
Dennison told the Four Corners Free Press that Wilkinson had seemed to them to be a very likeable person.
“We did think super highly of him and I think that’s what caused us the most trouble – I wouldn’t have thought this in a million years – because he is a personable and nice guy.
“We have a strong back office but Nate was good – it happened within three months – he definitely knew what he was doing.”