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Former St. Louis accounting clerk pleads guilty to defrauding company

Stephanie Baker faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS — An O’Fallon, Missouri woman has pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud related to her former job at Prairie Farms Dairy Supply Company.  

Stephanie Baker, 48, appeared in court in October 2020 where a judge accepted her pleas.

According to the indictment and plea agreement, Baker was working in the accounting department for Prairie Farms. Her responsibilities included applying and allocating the company’s customer payments to their accounts.

Baker would routinely receive checks from customers and make accounting entries to apply those checks to each customer’s account and reduce the balance owed to the company by the amount of the check received.

C.S. owned and operated a Dairy Queen restaurant franchise in southern Illinois. DQ Columbia maintained an account with Prairie Farms and purchased products from the company on a regular basis.

DQ Columbia was required under its franchise agreement to order and receive all its food, dairy products and supplies from Prairie Farms, according to a press release.

Beginning in March of 2018 and continuing in December of 2018, Baker “devised, intended to devise or knowingly participated” in a scheme to defraud and obtain money from Prairie Farms and C.S, in the amount of $192,337.

Baker received and applied payments from Prairie Farms customers other than DQ Columbia to DQ Columbia’s account. So, DQ Columbia then received credit and a reduction in its account balance for payments that were not made by DQ Columbia but were instead made by other Prairie Farms customers.

The other Prairie Farms customers who made the actual payments did not receive credit and a reduction in their own account balances.

As part of the scheme, Baker misapplied about $143,934 in other customer payments to the DQ Columbia account. Baker didn’t mail out statements to other Prairie Farms customers so that those other customers would not realize their prior payments to the company hadn’t been credited to their accounts.            

Baker told C.S. that in order for DQ Columbia to continue receiving food, dairy products and supplies from Prairie Farms, C.S. needed to make cash payments personally to her.

C.S. met with Baker on numerous occasions and delivered cash to her. Baker kept the cash and didn’t credit DQ Columbia’s account for the payments.

Baker used the cash for personal use including boarding and expenses for a show horse and other general living expenses, according to the release.

The cash payments C.S. made to Baker total $48,403.

Baker was sentenced on Feb. 17, 2021 to 12 months and one day in prison. A judge ordered her to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of $192,336.74.

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