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Ex-trucking employee sentenced in wire fraud case

A former billing and payroll clerk for Blachowske Truck Line was sentenced on Monday to three years in prison and ordered to pay back nearly $580,000.

Sheila Verbrugge, 50, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in September. Prosecutors claim she used her position at Blachowske Truck Line, headquartered in Brandon, where she worked for nearly 14 years, to divert funds from her employer into her personal accounts.

U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier sentenced Verbrugge to 36 months in federal prison and ordered her to adhere to three years of supervised release upon completing her sentence. She must pay $577,577.63 in restitution. She has been instructed to self-surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service by Jan. 5.

A federal grand jury indicted Verbrugge on 16 counts of wire fraud in August. After initially pleading not guilty to the charges, she changed her plea to guilty to the one charge in September.

Over a 10-year period, from January 2010 to April 2020, federal investigators claim that Verbrugge “falsely and fraudulently issued T-Cheks payable to herself” and deposited the money into her personal accounts.

Trucking companies like Blachowske, a family-owned pneumatic tank company, use T-Cheks to pay truck drivers’ fuel and maintenance expenses while they are out on the road.

Each week, T-Cheks emailed an invoice to Blachowske for its charges. In her roles as the company’s billing and payroll clerk, Verbrugge managed the T-Cheks account. On multiple occasions, investigators claimed Verbrugge issued T-Cheks payable to herself but then altered the names on the weekly T-Chek reports to include the names and locations of Blachowske truck drivers.

Because of the false information on the T-Cheks reports, Blachowske, which has 52 power units and 49 drivers, paid the invoices, according to court filings.

This article originally appeared on Freight Waves

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