By Stephanie Edwards
Tribune Reporter

A Lee’s Summit resident, Steven M. Lathrop, has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of fraud and stealing from his former employer, Master File Legal Support Services. Lathrop allegedly overcharged Master File for a total of $74,011.75 from October 2015 until May of this year. According to court records, Lathrop was charged with four felony counts of a Fraudulent Use of a Credit/Debit device, $500 or more; two Class D Felony counts of stealing, $750 or more; and one Class C Felony count of stealing, $25,000 or more.

The charges were filed on August 25, 2017.

The following information is included in the probable cause statement from the Lee’s Summit Police Department.

The police department was contacted by the owner of Master File Support Services, Steve Williams, who told the police that Lathrop, a former employee, had allegedly written checks for unauthorized amounts and used a company credit card for unauthorized transactions.

Williams further explained that Lathrop had been hired in June, 2013. His job required him to perform searches for open titles, liens, and other various property documents clients requested. Lathrop was authorized to pay for the documents at the assessor’s office or the recorder of deeds with the company checks.

Williams also stated that a company bookkeeper noticed that Lathrop had written a check to himself on January 3, 2014. When confronted by Williams, Lathrop explained that he had written the check to himself and used the money to pay for documents. Williams informed Lathrop that this was against company policy, and Lathrop was instructed to write checks directly to the company he was obtaining documents from.

Williams explained that the Master File bookkeeper failed to inform him that Lathrop allegedly continued to write checks payable to himself. According to the probable cause statement, Lathrop wrote checks higher than the cost of obtaining the documents, and then kept the remaining funds for himself.

Williams also stated that Lathrop had used the company credit card for unauthorized purchases. He went over his allotted food amount of $15 and paid for repairs to his personal vehicle.

Williams informed the LSPD that Lathrop had charged the following unauthorized purchases with the company credit card: $89.28 to Diamond Muffler and Brake on February 10, 2017; $69.71 to Diamond Muffler and Brake on February 15, 2017; $468.05 to Diamond Muffler and Brake on March 13, 2017; $6.51 to Best Buy on March 25, 2017; and $350 to Best Buy on March 25, 2017.
The statement indicates LSPD confirmed with Diamond Muffler and Brake that the total of $89.28 was spent with the credit card on a 2012 Chevy Impala, a company vehicle, and $459.77 and $69.71 was charged to the same credit card for work on a 2015 Ford F-150 pickup, Lathrop’s personal vehicle.

The police department then contacted Best Buy Loss Prevention who confirmed that Lathrop had purchased a Lenovo computer, which cost $848.03, for which he split the payment into two transactions. In one transaction, Lathrop used the company credit card for $350. The company credit card was also used to purchase Best Buy Insignia Paper in the amount of $6.51.

Williams provided the LSPD with documents dating back to 2014 through 2017 that reveal orders completed by Lathrop, all checks written out of the company’s account, and a list of unauthorized credit card charges. The overage charges on the credit card total $41,325.78 beginning in 2014 and ending in 2017.

The list of unauthorized credit card charges reflects activity at several local restaurants and businesses.

The detective subpoenaed records from Equity Bank for all of Lathrop’s account information.

The probable cause statement includes a list of checks Lathrop allegedly wrote to himself from the Master File Legal Support Service’s checking account beginning in October, 2015 through May, 2017. It also includes a list provided by Master File comparing the cost of orders completed to the amount of checks Lathrop wrote himself during that same time period.

According to the probable cause statement, in an interview with the LSPD, Lathrop stated that he worked for Master File for four years and began with an annual salary of $36,000, and was given access to a company credit card and the use of a Chevrolet Impala. The credit card was to be used for food and car maintenance. He said he was unclear how much he was allowed to spend per day on food, and that he did not keep good records or receipts for his purchases.

Lathrop also told the police that he had used the company credit card to pay for repairs on his own vehicle, the Ford F-150 pickup, at Diamond Muffler because he was short on money, and that the use was not authorized by the company. He acknowledged that he was not authorized to use the credit card for the repairs on his personal vehicle.

Lathrop went on to say that he was not authorized to purchase the computer from Best Buy, but said that the computer was for the use of company business. He said that he was authorized by Williams to write the checks to himself and to then pay cash for the transactions conducted with different counties. He said that he did not keep receipts from the county transactions.

Williams told police that he had never given Lathrop permission to write checks to himself and pay cash for transactions. He stated that he would allow employees to pay cash for small transactions, $2-$3, and then submit receipts which would then be reimbursed on their paychecks.

Lathrop was released on $5,000 bond, 10 percent or secured.

*Charges are only accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until the defendant is either found guilty or has pleaded.