Bookkeeper accused of stealing $500,000 from employer

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. – A business owner trusted his bookkeeper to keep things in order.

But when he stumbled across the devastating truth—that she’d stolen more than $550,000 from him over the years—he couldn’t believe it.

He told investigators that “never in a million years” would he have suspected Jennifer Horton would “do something like this.”

Horton is formally charged with theft and fraud in Hancock County. She’s accused of stealing $555,968 from 2014 to 2022. The money came through salary overpayments ranging from $25,000 in 2014 to $110,573 in 2021.

The business owner contacted the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office in December 2022 after realizing Horton had stolen thousands of dollars from his business. She’d used a company credit card to make unauthorized purchases and also put her husband—who owned a lawncare business and was paid from a separate business account—on the payroll with an annual salary in excess of $50,000.

The business owner, who told police he didn’t think Horton was capable of such deception, became suspicious when he asked Horton for the passcode for the company’s American Express account. She was “very hesitant” with the information and didn’t turn it over.

While she was on vacation, the business owner contacted American Express and learned the company’s balance was over $65,000. Horton had used the company card to pay for cable at the office as well as her own house, according to records from Comcast.

The business owner also discovered that an ex-employee’s credit card was still in use. The man had left the company a while ago and turned everything in, including his American Express card. It appeared Horton never deactivated it and continued to use it, according to court documents. There were several gas station purchases made with the card.

The business owner asked Horton for payroll information. Instead of providing it, she canceled the account and “deleted the app from computers,” he said. Horton also “emptied files/records that were kept in the office as well as deleted a file on [the owner’s] laptop that contained employee’s start dates and other records,” according to court documents.

The revelations were “devastating,” the owner told investigators. He considered Horton a friend and said she “sat next to me this whole time and I had no idea.”

Payroll records Horton provided to her employer showed she made a modest salary of $525 per week, which amounted to $27,300 a year. She eventually received a raise to $600 per week ($31,200 annually) in 2021 and another to $743 per week ($38,636 annually) in 2022.

But her W-2 forms told a much different story. In 2014, for example, she reported $52,300 in income from her employer—an overpayment of $25,000. Those overpayments continued in large amounts through 2022, according to tax records. The owner also discovered Horton’s husband had been added to the payroll in 2021 and 2022 as a full-time employee.

The business paid Horton’s husband about $1,200 a year out of a separate account to mow the lawn. He was never hired as a full-time member of the staff, the business owner told investigators.

Horton and her husband eventually sold their home in Hancock County and moved to Kentucky. The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office filed the case on March 15, although Horton didn’t make her initial appearance until March 27, according to court records.

She’s next due in court for an pretrial conference on April 25, with a jury trial tentatively scheduled for July.

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