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BILLINGS -- A Billings woman this week denied federal charges accusing her of stealing about $288,000 over nine years from a Billings car dealership.

Renee Ann Zinnecker, 50, pleaded not guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to an indictment charging her with two counts of wire fraud. If convicted, Zinnecker faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Beginning in 2005, Zinnecker, who was the office manager at Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Billings, embezzled cash she received by not depositing it into the dealership’s bank account, the indictment said.

The scheme ran until 2014 and netted Zinnecker about $288,254, the indictment added.

Zinnecker used a “delayed deposit scheme” to steal the money, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich in the indictment.

To hide the missing money, the indictment said, Zinnecker “delayed depositing other checks received on subsequent days to a later deposit, which reflected an identical amount to the embezzled cash.” The actions made the company’s general ledger appear to balance when in fact it didn’t balance.

Zinnecker then concealed the missing money from monthly account reviews by claiming the funds, which consisted of the embezzled cash and delayed check deposits, were “merely ‘floating,’” the indictment said. The term refers to a deposit that is not reflected in an account because it was received too late in the month to deposit or was deposited too late to be credited to the account before the monthly summary was issued.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby continued Zinnecker’s release without bond pending trial. A jury trial was set for May 11. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.

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