Local Man Accyused of Stealing From American Legion to Stand Trial

A Sikeston man accused of stealing over $100,000 from a local American Legion organization is scheduled to stand trial by jury next year.

A jury trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 15-16, 2022, in New Madrid County on a change of venue for Gary M. Prindle, 89, who was charged through Scott County in December 2019 with one felony count of stealing $25,000 or more on or around Feb. 11, 2019, according to online court records. A pre-trial conference is set for 10 a.m. Aug. 23, 2022.

A trial setting before 34th District Circuit Judge William Edward Reeves was held Aug. 24 where Prindle appeared in person, by his attorney Bryan Greaser and Scott County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Austin Crowe, and all agreed to the trial dates.

Prindle is a former bartender for American Legion Post 114 in Sikeston.

The probable cause statement provided by the office of Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Oesch, on Feb. 11, 2019, representatives with the American Legion Post 114 in Sikeston reported a theft to Sikeston Department of Public Safety. Then-Chief Financial Officer James Walton and Commander Larry Roach with the Legion met with DPS Detective Flint Dees.

During the course of his duties, Walton said he was reviewing the sales records for the business in October 2018, specifically the business’s four Missouri Pull Tab Lottery machines, according to the probable cause statement. Walton noticed a large difference in the sales totals and the funds deposited into the business’s bank in Sikeston, the probable cause statement said. Walton said he contacted the Missouri Lottery Commission to assist in understanding how to view and utilize lottery reports to determine the shortage. The lottery officials agreed a large shortage had occurred.

Walton said he took information to the business’s certified public accountant. The accountant prepared a report for the years 2017 and 2018 indicating the following stolen funds: the 2017 loss from Lottery Pull Tab bank deposits of $69,079.22 and the 2018 loss from Lottery Pull Tab bank deposits of $43,218.83 for a total of $112,298.05, according to the probable cause statement.

In the probable cause statement, Walton explained the stolen money was collected during play by the four Missouri Lottery electronic pull tab machines located inside the members-only area of the bar. The stolen money was removed from the machines and never deposited into the specific bank account for these funds in 2017 and 2018, he said.

According to the probable cause statement, the Missouri Lottery Commission withdraws the amount of money it is owed from the sales electronically from the Legion’s bank account. The amount that remains after the withdrawal is the American Legion’s profit. A shortage in this account is how Walton and Roach said they were alerted to the problem and began the inquiry.

The pull tab machines pay out 90 percent of money played; of the remaining 10 percent, the Lottery Commissioners keep 80 percent and the American Legion Post keeps the remaining 20 percent. All of the missing funds were taken from the American Legion’s 20 percent, the probable cause said.

The gaming machines track every transaction completed on the machines with an exact date and time stamp, not limited to the following: all player transactions including money placed into the machine, loss, win, bet amounts, play balance, voucher created to cash out credit balance, etc.; and all employee transactions including opening of base door to access ticket roll, opening of cashbox to access the played cash and drop-notes amount of money removed from the cashbox by employees, etc.

The bar manager’s duty is to empty all four cashboxes of the machines and make the bank deposit. The money removed from the Lottery machines is counted, the Missouri Lottery terminal/register is then refreshed to the standard opening operating balance.

Prindle was the bar manger for the Legion for almost eight years, specifically in all of 2017 and until October 2018 when he resigned. Prindle did the morning opening duties six days a week and the other bartender did those duties for him on Sunday mornings because that was his normally scheduled day off, the probable cause said.

Prindle managed three bartenders who had limited access to the pull tab machines, the Lottery register and the deposits.

 

In reviewing the full transaction reports for 2018, one day of each month was detailed in which a known shortage occurred, Dees said in his probable cause statement. On all of those dates, the machines cashboxes were opened more than once before bar opening time.

It is noted by the transaction report that not every day — but consistently in the morning — money would be removed from the cashboxes of the machines, then quickly money would be put into the machines for play and then the money removed again from the machine that had just been played, stealing that money, the probable cause said.

On several other occasions, money is placed into a machine creating a credit — without making a bet or play — and a credit voucher is requested by the player for the exact amount, and a winning ticket/voucher is printed. The cashbox was then opened and the money that was just entered was taken out of the cashbox again, thus stealing the money from the cashbox and also stealing the money with the printed voucher when it was cashed in. All of these examples occurred while Prindle was working and doing the morning duties, Dees’ probable cause statement said.

All three bartenders denied any involvement in the theft or having any knowledge of how or who committed the theft, the detective said. They stated it was a normal practice for Prindle to loan and authorize them to loan certain members money from the Missouri Lottery register to play the pull tab machines. When doing so, they said they were advised to place a note in the drawer indicating the member’s name and loan amount. This loaned money would be paid back by the member in the days following and then placed in an envelope with the debtor’s name and Prindle’s name on the outside of the envelope. The bartenders told Dees they only knew the envelope was placed in the register and did not know how that money was accounted for, but they would not enter it into their register total. They all found the activity suspicious but said they were only doing as they were told by their supervisor.

 

Since Prindle’s resignation, the earnings from the pull tab machines drastically increased, the probable cause statement said. A warrant for Prindle’s arrest was issued on Dec. 27, 2019, and served on Jan. 2, 2020, according to online court records. Bond was set at $20,000 cash or surety, and he posted bond.

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