The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

January 28, 2013

Guilty plea entered in Salvation Army fraud

JOPLIN, Mo. — A former food services director of the Salvation Army in Joplin pleaded guilty Monday to fraudulent use of credit cards belonging to the charity organization.

Stephen D. Lewallen, 35, pleaded guilty to the felony count in Jasper County Circuit Court in a plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office.

The deal would limit the prison time the defendant might be assessed to no more than three years. He was facing up to five years if convicted of the Class D felony.

Lewallen was charged in December 2011 after an investigation by the Joplin Police Department. A probable-cause affidavit states that the business manager for the Salvation Army in Joplin discovered the fraud after being informed that the limit had been exceeded on one of the organization’s charge cards with Wal-Mart.

She subsequently found several fraudulent charges on Wal-Mart charge cards belonging to the organization that were in the possession of Lewallen. Charges on a statement with an end date of Nov. 29, 2011, totaled $2,656.15. But the business manager told police at the time that for the card to be over its limit, about $18,000 in fraudulent charges would have had to have been made, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit alleges that Lewallen made several charges with the cards between Nov. 12 and Dec. 9, 2011.

A police officer involved in the investigation went to Lewallen’s home to arrest him on some active warrants and spotted a television that matched the description of a television on a statement for a charge card belonging to the Salvation Army.

According to the affidavit, Lewallen later admitted to using the credit cards for his personal benefit. He told a detective that he had sold most of the items he purchased with the cards. The television and other electronic items believed to have been purchased with the cards were seized from his home.

Sentencing

CIRCUIT JUDGE GAYLE CRANE set Stephen Lewallen’s sentencing hearing for April 1.

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