Pressler’s ex-boss: I didn’t OK using company money
Jim Pribil, former employer of a New Castle woman charged with embezzling as much as $180,000 from his business, testified Monday that he did not give former bookkeeper Erin Pressler permission to use company money to pay personal debt, as her defense attorneys have asserted.
The prosecution questioned Pribil all morning, and the defense used most of the afternoon for cross examination.
Taking the stand immediately after Pribil, Sarah Pagni, the wife of New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni and another employee of Pribil’s, said Pressler had persuaded her to sign company checks that would eventually pay off thousands of dollars of Pressler’s credit card debt.
Pribil testified that transactions in his business’s accounting software had been omitted or altered, creating a false picture of finances.
Pribil, owner of Designer Door Hardware of Glenwood Springs, said he did not regularly check his company’s bank account — or even know how to check his bank accounts online.
He said he relied on reports from his QuickBooks software to follow the company’s finances. The record of the company’s finances in QuickBooks, however, was not directly linked to the company bank account, and he said many transactions had been either omitted or relabeled to look like normal transactions with vendors.
Along with being charged with embezzlement from Designer Door Hardware, where Pressler worked as the bookkeeper from 2009 to 2012, she is accused of fraudulently collecting Social Security benefits and filing false tax reports during the same three-year period.
Public defender Molly Owens said she wanted to impeach Pribil, saying he’d made inconsistent statements and couldn’t recall details about particular company transactions.
The public defender said that the case essentially depended upon Pribil’s word about what was a legitimate purchase and what wasn’t.
Owens pointed out several company transactions that investigators and Pribil believed were more of Pressler’s unauthorized buys, but were later removed from the list because they might have been legitimate purchases. Over time Pribil and investigators removed more than $2,000 of transactions from the list, said Owens.
While Pribil testified that it was Pressler’s idea to use her husband’s name and Social Security number on the company payroll, the defense has asserted that it was Pribil who suggested it.
Pribil said he allowed Pressler to use her husband’s Social Security number knowing that it was illegal. Owens asked Pribil if he was testifying to avoid criminal prosecution himself, but he denied that and said that the district attorney’s office has never threatened prosecution.
Pribil had also supplied investigators with handwriting examples so they could attempt to identify which company checks had been illegitimately signed. But FBI experts were unable to conclude that Pribil had not written all the checks himself, said Owens.
During Pribil’s testimony, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett showed copies of two dozen Designer Door Hardware checks, each made out for thousands of dollars. Barrett said those checks went to Pressler’s credit card accounts.
Altogether, the checks totaled about $106,000, according to Barrett’s math. Pribil said Pressler had also made personal purchases with her company debit card. He said he has calculated that Pressler took from $160,000 to $180,000 from his business.
Answering questions during the defense’s cross-examination, Pribil said that another long-trusted employee, Pagni, had signed company checks using his name — one of which was a $10,100 check that made its way into one of Pressler’s credit card accounts.
Pagni testified that she had come to believe that her boss had authorized her to sign checks for the company.
Pressler, she said, convinced her that Pribil wanted her to occasionally sign Designer Door Hardware checks with his name. In all, she signed six company checks that Pressler brought to her. She viewed Pressler as her supervisor, considering that Pressler worked longer hours, got paid more and had more discussions with Pribil about the company’s finances, Pagni said.
Pressler reasoned that Pagni had better handwriting, so she could more easily imitate their boss’s signature, Pagni testified.
Pagni also let Pressler take her new key to the business after Pribil changed the building’s locks. Pressler claimed to have personal items and documents in the building that she wanted to get without running into Pribil, according to Pagni’s testimony.
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