A $768,000 theft — including $207,000 in cash stuffed behind the drywall of his home — led to little time behind jail walls for a Bellevue man.
Douglas County District Judge James Gleason on Tuesday sentenced Steven S. Molnar to 90 days in jail and three years of probation.
In declining to impose a prison sentence, the judge noted that Molnar, 43, repaid the sum immediately after he was confronted about taking $768,000 from Pitney Bowes Presort Services, an international business that specializes in mail sorting and delivery.
Gleason also noted that a probation officer preparing a presentence report had recommended probation. Molnar faced up to 20 years in prison or up to five years of probation.
A little less than half of embezzlers get probation, national and local statistics show.
However, the $768,000 is one of the largest theft amounts in Nebraska to fail to net a prison sentence. Two years ago, the manager of a local cleaning products company was given five years' probation for stealing $526,000.
Molnar's case also was unique because he apparently had no gambling or spending compulsion that fueled his theft. Molnar and his attorney, Michael Nelson, gave no explanation for the theft. Nelson suggested that there may have been “extenuating circumstances” but declined to specify them.
“He is very remorseful for his actions,” Nelson said. “He regrets them terribly.”
Prosecutors have speculated that Molnar was motivated by a desire for some sort of rainy-day or retirement fund.
In the end, Molnar was simply a hoarder with a hole in his wall. In that hole, Molnar had stuffed $207,000 in cash, wrapped in a grocery bag. In bank accounts across the city, investigators found more than $500,000.
The stash was exposed after Molnar, an account manager at Pitney Bowes, began laying the foundation to expand his scheme.
In 2002, Pitney Bowes completed its acquisition of a mail presort business called PSI Group. Over time, businesses continued to make out payments to PSI Group, rather than to Pitney Bowes.
In January 2011, Molnar set up an account at Great Southern Bank under the name “Steven Molnar, dba (doing business as) PSI Group, Inc.”
He then began to deposit money intended for Pitney Bowes — at least 19 checks — into the personal account that he had set up at the bank.
In March 2012, Molnar attempted to add another business name to his account. Authorities say he was hoping to continue the same scheme with a new company that Pitney Bowes had acquired.
Great Southern Bank officials became suspicious.
A bank vice president looked at Molnar's account and saw that he had a balance of more than $300,000. And he had transferred $455,000 more from the account — splitting most of that up among accounts at four area banks.
On April 16, bank officials confronted Molnar.
They ordered Molnar to return all the money to Great Southern Bank within 72 hours.
The next morning, Molnar was at the bank “with a bag of cash in the amount of $207,000, ” according to a court affidavit. Later in the day, he came by with four cashier's checks totaling a quarter-million dollars.
“His case is a little unique in that it isn't like he had to come up with the money somewhere,” Nelson said. “He never spent it — he just collected it. I think that tempers the theft a little bit.”
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine wasn't so sure.
Kleine noted that Molnar didn't pay back any money until he was confronted. And the county's top prosecutor wondered just how much benefit someone should get for “paying back someone after you get caught.”
“It's one thing to have a guilty conscience, come forward and say, 'I feel bad about what I did — here's the money back,' ” Kleine said. “It's quite another to say, 'You caught me — I'll pay you back.'
“We've seen a number of cases where these embezzlers have a propensity to commit the same crime. Our main goal is to prevent someone from doing it again — and it's our hope that this conviction accomplishes that.”