A Johnson County grand jury handed down several indictments on Wednesday, Feb. 16, among them were indictments against two Salyersville women, indicted on charges of theft by unlawful taking for “exercising control over … monies from a loan account” belonging to World Finance customers, according to court documents and Paintsville Police Department Capt. Jonathan Holbrook.
The pair, Bailey Burke, 33, and Stephanie Saylor, 45, both of Salyersville, were arrested at approximately 6 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17, after the grand jury returned the indictments.
According to the indictments, Burke and Saylor were charged in complicity with one another and on three separate charges each, linked to three separate loan accounts which had been fraudulently taken control of by the pair.
According to the documents, Saylor and Burke were charged with theft by unlawful taking (more than $1,000 but less than $10,000) with one offense allegedly taking place beginning on April 7, 2021, another beginning on Feb. 12, 2021 and another beginning on Sept. 28, 2020, totaling approximately $1,243, $1,741 and $1,741, respectively.
The documents said that, on those dates, Saylor and Burke, acting alone or in complicity with one another committed the offense by knowingly and unlawfully taking or exercising control over the amounts listed in monies from loan accounts assigned to customers, two of which belonged to a David Stambaugh, of Thelma, and one of which belonged to a Brett Reynolds, also of Thelma, with the intent to benefit oneself or another not entitled to the monies.
“I actually picked this investigation up … in October, or the beginning of November and we’ve done a bunch of subpeonas and search warrants, we’ve went through files and loans,” Holbrook said. “The girls actually informed the district manager of what they’d done and wrote out a list of names that they’d done it to, but they left several off. We got some loans that people said were not theirs, and they would apply payments to delinquent loans, that way they could get their bonuses.”
Holbrook said that the pair was trying to “stay number one in the region.”
“They said they were trying to stay number one in the region or become number one in the region … I don’t know if they pocketed money or what, but I can say they took money and applied it to other people,” Holbrook said, saying that the pair had also released liens from vehicles on accounts that hadn’t been paid off. “They would give your vehicle back and say that the account was paid off and they hadn’t even applied the money to the account.”
Holbrook said that, off the top of his head, he could think of at least 20 separate incidences that had been discovered through the investigation and that more charges were likely.
“I know they’ve paid more than $15,000 back already, and this is an ongoing investigation,” Holbrook said. “
According to Holbrook, the pair are no longer employed at World Finance and the company had been cooperative in helping discover the fraud and make the situation right with the victims.
“They’ve done their part, they got rid of those two employees, or they resigned, I’m not sure exactly, but they are no longer employed there,” Holbrook said. “They confessed to quite a bit, but there’s still a lot they didn’t confess to, and that’s what we’ve got to find. Like I said, they’ve paid more than $15,000 back already, to take care of some of the accounts that they fraudulently either renewed or didn’t apply payments to, or whatever their scheme was. There were signatures that, I brought people in and let them look at it, and they’d say, ‘That’s not my signature,’ or there were a lot I’ve been comparing to IDs.”
There are many more incidents involved in the situation, Holbrook said, but 20 or more accounts had already been paid back, and the PPD is looking for those who believe they might have been victims of the fraud to step forward. Holbrook warned, however, that if there were false statements given in the hope of having their loan forgiven fraudulently, they would also be prosecuted for that.
“If anybody thinks there’s any issues with their accounts, they can contact dispatch and dispatch will take their information and I’ll get back up with them and we’ll go over their accounts with them and we’ll see if we can’t get them right,” Holbrook said. “Here’s the thing, too, there might be some people who do have a legitimate loan and think they’re going to get that paid off. That’s not going to happen. If they say that and get their loan paid off, they’ll be held accountable for that, as well.”
The thing that makes the case frustrating to him, Holbrook said, is that he felt like Saylor and Burke targeted the vulnerable, such as younger people who might not be in great financial condition and elderly and disabled people.
“A lot of people didn’t know about it and, to be honest, they targeted, in my opinion, a certain group of people, such as younger people, elderly people and people with disabilities, so vulnerable people, more or less. I’m not saying there aren’t other people they’ve targeted, but I’ve noticed somewhat of a pattern in it,” Holbrook said, adding that the situation has done vast damage to people who did business at World Finance. “It’s frustrating. Some of these people, you know, have a certain amount of money they have to live on in a month and they think their loan is paid off and it’s not. So, they’ve had to come in and it’s hurt a lot of people and affected a lot of people.
“Actually, one person came to me and we went over his account, and he had gone to buy a new vehicle and it was on his credit report, and it almost knocked him out of buying that vehicle,” Holbrook continued. “They’d issued his lien release and said his account was paid off and it wasn’t. They didn’t find the money where it should have gone.”
Holbrook said he wanted to give thanks to PPD Chief Mike Roe and Constable District 2 Bruce Ritz, as well as PPD Sargeant Ramey, who initially opened the investigation, for their assistance in working the case and attaining warrants, and the District Manager of World Finance, who has made the files readily available for the investigation.
There could be a vast amount of fraud in this ongoing investigation, Holbrook said, and he’d be comfortable saying there would be more charges.
“I would be comfortable to say there could be more, you’ve got to think how many payments and loans have come in for two years. They’ve got files upon files and we’re still going through it … it’s a lot of work, because some of these files are 400 to 500 pages and I’m trying to go through five to 10 files a day,” Holbrook said. “It’s overwhelming, but we’re going to get it all sorted out and everything taken care of.”
Theft by unlawful taking with a value of more than $1,000 but less than $10,000 is a class D felony, meaning the pair could serve one to five years in prison and be responsible for a fine of no more than $10,000 on each charge, if convicted.
The pair were lodged in the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 17 and released at approximately 8:30 a.m., with court dates set for April 18 in both cases.
If you suspect the fraud has affected your account at World Finance’s Paintsville location, contact Paintsville/Johnson County Emergency Dispatch by phone at, (606) 789-2260.