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$477,358 missing; woman arrested

Investigators say the 56-year-old wrote checks to herself in three years she worked at JFK Supply, a St. Petersburg company.

By JACOB H. FRIES
Published January 21, 2005


LARGO - For three years, it was the perfect con, investigators said.

No one knew Judy Ann Cartmill was writing company checks to herself, nor did they notice that $477,358 was missing, sheriff's Detective Korey Diener said.

But Wednesday morning, after four months of investigation, deputies arrested Cartmill at a Largo house she was renting under an assumed name, Diener said. She has been charged with a first-degree felony count of scheming to defraud, which carries a maximum of 30 years in prison.

"She knew that sooner or later in her travels law enforcement would catch up to her," Diener said.

Cartmill, 56, was hired Nov. 16, 2000, as a secretary at JFK Supply, a St. Petersburg company that installs doors and interior trim for apartment complexes, Diener said. Cartmill was later moved to the accounting department, where she handled payments to contractors.

She wrote the first check to herself Sept. 1, 2001 - for the exact amount owed to a contractor - and cashed it, Diener said. When the bank sent the cashed check back to the company, Cartmill intercepted it from the mail before her bosses saw it, he said.

Cartmill went on to write 126 more checks, each for less than $5,000, the detective said. When contractors complained that they had not received their money, Cartmill would handle their calls and would send them portions of what they were owed over several months.

Then in September, Cartmill was fired for "performance issues," Diener said.

Her embezzlement still unknown, Cartmill pleaded to remain at work for two more weeks, saying she needed the extra pay, Diener said.

Her bosses refused but later that day learned why Cartmill had wanted to stay so badly: Seven checks cashed by a bank in her name arrived with the day's mail, Diener said. Together, the checks amounted to more than $28,000.

Diane Neal, office manager at JFK Supply, said the company would not comment on the case.

When she was arrested Wednesday, Cartmill insisted for a half-hour that she wasn't Judy Ann Cartmill, Diener said.

Diener told her, "Ma'am, you're just prolonging this."

Moments later, she confessed, Diener said. Cartmill said she was sorry and embarrassed and told the detective she had squandered most of the money, he said.

She had bought a Lincoln Town Car and two other vehicles with the money, but she had to sell furniture to pay bills, Diener said. The house she was renting was clean but bare.

Cartmill's husband has not been charged. Cartmill told detectives that he knew nothing of her scheme and that she had told him the stolen money was work bonuses.

Cartmill has no previous criminal record in Florida, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Diener said she had been arrested in another state for forging checks, but he did not know further details about that arrest.

Cartmill posted $50,000 bond Wednesday. It was unknown whether she has retained an attorney.

[Last modified January 21, 2005, 00:30:24]


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