Hermann woman charged
A Hermann woman has been charged in connection with the alleged theft of funds from a Rhineland business.
According to Montgomery County Associate Circuit Court records filed Wednesday Jan. 20, Katie Muenks is charged with the Class C felony of stealing ($25,000 or more) from The Corner Restaurant Bar and Grill between January 2019 and December 2020. An initial court appearance is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22.
According to a Jan. 19 probable cause statement from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Muenks allegedly stole funds from the business while working as its manager. The statement said the patrol was contacted by the restaurant's owner, who stated that in January 2019 he purchased the business and had appointed Muenks, his girlfriend, as the manager. In her position, Muenks was given the authority to sign for The Corner's bank account. The owner is only listed as an Ottawa, Illinois, resident -- "A.R." -- in the statement.
"A.R. stated both he and Muenks had other means of income at the time and together, made a verbal agreement that neither would take any money from the business until such time it began to make a profit," the statement said.
The owner told the patrol's investigator that in the fall of 2019, he became aware of suspicious checks, debits, and cash withdrawals written and made by Muenks, and confronted her about the transactions. He said Muenks told him she had taken the funds for her time and expenses incurred while working as the restaurant's manager. The owner further stated that he told Muenks that if she felt she needed to be paid for her time or expenses, she should do so by placing herself on the payroll for proper tracking and recording. He said he told Muenks that using the business's bank account for personal expenses was not permitted. He then told the investigator he believed the matter was closed and that Muenks had stopped withdrawing money or using the business account for personal use.
Last October, A.R. said he decided to sell the restaurant and that in the process, he began reviewing its finances and and bank statements. During the review, the owner said he learned Muenks had allegedly stolen a large amount of money from the business since the January 2019 purchase. Investigators said they discovered Muenks had made 249 cash withdrawals at The Corner's bank account that totaled over $162,000.
"Many of these withdrawals were completed at Rhineland and Hermann area ATMs and were made for the maximum daily allowable amount permitted by the bank," the statement said. "A large percentage of these withdrawals occurred on the same day, some a matter of minutes apart from each other, for thousands of dollars. Often, ATM withdrawals were completed on the same day that in-person withdrawals were also made by Muenks."
Additionally, the statement continued, Muenks wrote herself 52 checks that totaled more than $58,000.
A further review of bank records showed that Muenks made multiple payments from the restaurant's bank account to support two businesses she owned that weren't affiliated with The Corner. Muenks, as a dress distributor and owner/manager of a guest house, made 29 payments from the restaurant's bank account to two dress suppliers that totaled nearly $42,000. The statement also said she purchased $9,700 in fabric and issued a $2,000 refund for a dress that was previously sold.
Other than the dress business, Muenks has also been owning and managing The Shining Hope Guest House in Rhineland. The probable cause said she issued 24 checks to that business totaling just over $28,000. She also paid cleaners of the guest house using checks from the restaurant, along with giving refunds for cancelled stays at the guest house.
The statement said other suspicious payments were found that were unrelated to the restaurant, according to information provided by the owner. The payments included those to multiple collection agencies, credit cards, clothing and shoe stores, restaurants, hotels, gas stations and convenience stores, purchases at Petsmart, Branson theater tickets, beauty salons, and payments to Carmax. To date, checks, withdrawals, money transfers and the cumulative total of purchases flagged by A.R. and thought not associated with The Corner exceed $360,000.
In a Jan. interview with investigators, Muenks admitted she made cash withdrawals, wrote multiple checks, and made online transfers from the restaurant's bank account for personal expenses and bills. She said she would commonly use the money to cover shortfalls in her own bank account and to help make payments on delinquent personal loans and debts. She said made the transactions without A.R.'s permission or approval.
"When asked, Muenks recalled a previous conversation she had with A.R. in which he demanded she no longer use his businesses' bank account for personal use," the statement noted. "Muenks stated although A.R. told her to no longer use the business funds for her personal expenses, she did so anyway, without his knowledge."