PALMER — A former employee of Mudbusters Car Wash has been convicted of stealing more than $400,000 in coins from the business.
Police first were told of what his superiors believed Steven D. Berry was up to in January 2011. He worked for the car wash, according to court documents, from around the time the business opened.
According to an affidavit Investigator Ruthan Josten filed in the case, Mudbusters owners Stephen and Karen Mahoy contacted Josten to talk about it. Their exact accounting of what Berry took over the multiple years he worked there was no less than $414,750.
“They explained a former employee, identified as Steven D. Berry, had been fired in 2009. The day he was fired they realized a huge profit from the vacuums, which used quarters,” Josten wrote.
The business owners crunched the numbers further and found that in 2008, there had been $9,318.25 in quarters deposited in company accounts. But in 2009 after Berry was terminated, the revenue was $25,819.50.
The incident that got him fired actually had to do with a company truck. In log notes from his testimony at trial, Berry denied stealing anything or damaging the truck.
But the Mahoys said that he was in charge of emptying out the vacuums and employees saw him with 5-gallon buckets of change in his car and that he would drop off at a bank on Seward Meridian Parkway. The company’s bank was not on that road.
Josten writes that in November 2011, she obtained a warrant to search Berry’s home, which she described as a half-million dollar home run on batteries, a generator and solar power.
“A large amount of U.S. Mint coins were found as well as coin counters. I found a receipt that showed he recently spent $14,000 at a garage sale,” Josten said, adding that Berry’s estranged ex-wife also talked to her. “She showed me a secret room in the house that contained life essentials, a place to sleep and an ‘excape chute’ that went to the basement.”
She also told Josten that he’d hid $1,000 in the wall but removed it after their relationship fell apart and both filed domestic violence restraining orders on each other.
At trial, according to the log notes, Berry maintained that the $500,000 price tag on the home was only its insured value, that he built it out of pocket often with materials he got at a discount or from friends.
He also said that he did keep lots of money in the home, but only because he didn’t trust banks.
“No, I never stole money from the Mahoys,” he is quoted as saying in the log notes.
But the jury that tried him over the past couple weeks disagreed. On Sept. 6, it returned a guilty verdict on the theft counts he faced.
The charge carries up to 10 years in prison, according to Alaska law, but the sentence — set to be decided at a hearing Dec. 16 — could go above or below that number depending on Berry’s criminal history. The most serious incidents in his Alaska court records are the aforementioned protective orders.
Contact Andrew Wellner at 352-2270