A Bossier City man has bilked a local construction company out of almost $400,000 – an amount Webster Parish Sheriff's investigators say could eventually top the half-million mark.
Murlin Dale Graham, 36, of the 4200 block of Firenze Drive, has been charged with four counts of felony theft by fraud. Sheriff's Det. Scott Tucker said a charge of money laundering likely will be added today.
"Graham worked in the accounting department at this local construction company," Tucker said. "He had been there three or four years. We're not sure yet how long."
Owners of the company reportedly began an internal investigation after being contacted by a local bank concerning issues with one of their vendor accounts.
Investigators worked with the company's accountants and banks and discovered roughly $392,000 had been misappropriated.
"We discovered Graham had set up several limited liability corporations in Louisiana using similar names to some of the company's major suppliers and vendors," Tucker said. "He was producing checks as if they were going to that vendor or supplier, but they were being dumped into his own account."
To date, authorities have scrutinized records dating from August, 2011 to present.
"We're still finding more, but the total stolen is probably going to be between $400,000 and $500,000," Tucker said.
Tucker and Det. Tommy Kemp reportedly interviewed Graham at his place of employment Wednesday, October 10.
"He admitted somewhat to what he'd been doing," Tucker said.
A search of Graham's person turned up debit cards to several of the accounts. In his vehicle, authorities located receipts for deposits into Graham's accounts that had been made with company checks.
"We also executed a search warrant at his residence in Bossier City," Tucker said. "We recovered boxes of checks and paperwork for the LLCs ... it's overwhelming evidence against him."
A large amount of the money has been spent – mostly in local "strip clubs" in the Shreveport/ Bossier area, according to the detective.
"A lot of it went to ladies who work at these strip clubs," Tucker said. "We don't think he actually gambled any of the money, but he partied at the casinos. By his own admission, there might be only $10,000 left in the bank."
Investigators in the sheriff's office and the Bossier/Webster District Attorney's Office have reportedly issued subpoenas on numerous accounts at separate banks.
"We've also seized a ski boat and travel trailer he purchased, along with his vehicle ... just trying to lock up all his assets to try and help this (construction) company hopefully regain some of what they've lost," Tucker said. "They're in total shock because the way Graham was maneuvering this money around and his responsibilities – such as paying bills, vendors and suppliers – those responsibilities were not met.
"So, this company that is family-owned, family-operated has obligations that have not been met, bills that have not been paid and now they've got to figure out how to repay these things," Tucker continued. "They started from the ground up and this is a pretty big hit to them and their employees. They have to step back and look at things now."
Tucker said as the investigation continues, they will go back to Graham's original date of employment.
"They have outside sources that monitor their records, but Graham was the beginning link in that chain, so he was able to make things appear as though they were normal."
According to Tucker, Graham has no criminal past.