A Mound House businessman laid off 10 employees and was within three weeks of closing when he discovered he was being ripped off.
Engine Prototype owner Larry Olson said chance led him to discover his 67-year-old part-time bookkeeper had embezzled more than $161,000 over six years.
On Monday, Myrna Nesser, of Carson City, was sentenced to one to four years in prison and ordered to pay $161,704 restitution, according to the Lyon County court clerk's office. Nesser pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement.
Olson said he discovered the theft two days before the Sept. 11 attacks and was examining the books as he watched the aftermath of the attack unfold.
"The canceled checks came in on a Saturday and I went through them for a change," he said. "I discovered she wrote a check to herself. I went back through all the check registers and receipts and found it was a continuous thing."
Once authorities were alerted, Olson said, they took quick action.
"I reported it on a Thursday and they arrested her on a Friday," he said.
Although Olson asked the judge to sentence Nesser to six years, he said he understood the sentence.
"When I wrote the victim statement, I said that she stole for six years, so she should go to jail for six years. But because of her age and that it was her first offense I was told by a lot of people that she would probably get a suspended sentence."
Olson isn't convinced Nesser spent all the money.
"She's not a gambler or a drunk. I think she's got a nest egg hidden somewhere," he said. "Since I got a civil judgment the same time as her sentence, I can subpoena records and bank accounts and, because she is in jail, she can't run interference."
Olson said the theft has hurt his business, costing him more than the money he lost.
"When she started I had more than 10 employees and I was doing $700,000 to $800,000 in business," he said. "Now I have no employees."
Olson explained that as he examined the profitability of a product, he would look at the bottom line. When a product wasn't making money, he would cut it.
"When I cut out the stuff that wasn't profitable, as the product line diminished, so did the jobs," he said.
He believes he was within three weeks of closing his business when he uncovered the theft.
In fact, he discovered the theft partly because he was near the bottom of the barrel.
"When you have all these employees and you are down to almost nothing, you are looking at your money very carefully," he said. "I had three months worth of income in the checkbook, then I looked at it and there was only two months worth and I'm asking myself, 'What did I spend it on?'"
So Olson when back through his books and found the single check that led him to look back over six years.
He has some advice to business people.
"If you think something's wrong, instead of letting thievery be the last place to look, let it be the first place to look," he said. "A businessman has to take a month's work of books and look at each entry. Look at every check."
Two people identifying themselves only as Nesser's children telephoned the Nevada Appeal after a message was left at her home. Both denied Olson's charges.