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8:26 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Business people in Wikieup to receive $780,000 in restitution

KINGMAN - After nearly a year of court battles, three Wikieup business people will receive one of the largest restitution orders in the county.

On Monday, Judge Steven Conn sentenced Lisa Ann Blanton, 49, to eight and a half years in prison for felony theft and fraudulent schemes and artifices. Once she is released, she will have one year and two months to pay back $780,000 in restitution. Of that amount, $75,000 will go to Myron Storing, Sr., $5,000 to Wikieup Stables and $700,000 to Wikieup Trading Post.

Blanton accepted a plea agreement on Sept. 2 in lieu of a trial. She was originally charged with 17 counts of forgery, one count of fraudulent use of a credit card, one count of fraudulent schemes and 10 counts of theft.

Myron Storing and Marian Berry are co-owners of the Wikieup Trading Post. Storing also owns Luchia's Restaurant and Gifts in Wikieup.

Blanton worked as a bookkeeper for both businesses, said Judy Hill, Berry's daughter.

She took money from Storing's accounts and would use money from the Trading Post to cover the losses. Then she would take money from Storing to cover the Trading Post's losses. Each time she would take a little for herself, Hill said.

She was also in charge of taking money from the businesses into Kingman to deposit in the bank, Hill said.

Hill and her mother realized something was wrong when the business began receiving bad checks back from the bank. Hill asked Blanton if the deposit receipts from the bank reconciled with the business' records. Blanton told her yes.

Hill began going through the bank deposit receipts and the business' records and started finding numerous discrepancies. Blanton had been taking money from the deposits before giving them to the bank.

"We trusted her like a family member," she said. "She caused a lot of pain between partners (i.e. Berry and Storing.)"

Once Hill realized what was happening, she and her husband hired a forensic accountant. The accountant came to the same conclusion that Blanton had been taking money from both businesses.

Hill said she confronted Blanton in April and she confessed to Hill that she had taken the money. Blanton was fired.

She then began helping Raquel Lacey, who worked for Wikieup Stables, with finances, Hill said. She tried to warn Lacey about what Blanton had done to Storing and the Trading Post, but Lacey didn't want to believe her.

Blanton ended up stealing from Lacey and Wikieup Stables as well.

Both County Attorney Jace Zack and defense attorney Shawn Hamp agreed that the sentence was appropriate to the charges.

"She did admit guilt and responsibility," Hamp said. "But she feels that she was made a scapegoat for some of the losses. She wants to do the time, face the punishment and put this behind her."

Her arrest record has haunted her, he said. She lost her way of making a living and was currently working at a fast-food restaurant.

"I'm not a bad person," Blanton told the court. She worked hard and even attempted to help Storing, Hill, Berry and Lacey out.

She gave Lacey's son his first job and sold him his first vehicle. She also gave Lacey business by bringing her horses to Wikieup Stables.

"I gave of myself to the community," she said. "I didn't live a lavish lifestyle. This is about vindication."

Lacey also spoke out in court, telling Conn that she had no idea that the money Blanton paid her was stolen.

"I believed what she said," Lacey said.

"She took us for nearly $9,000. I do feel vindicated."

Hill said after the hearing that she was glad the whole thing was over and hopefully behind them.