by Ivan Foley
Two now-former employees of Ferrellgas in Platte County are charged with stealing from the company in a scheme that may have involved more than $250,000 worth of propane.
Ferrellgas is a propane supplier that operates in this area out of an office on Bethel Road east of Platte City.
Robert E. Hensley, 56, of St. Joseph and Steven L. Manville, 48, of Camden Point both face felony charges of receiving stolen property.
Hensley also faces a misdemeanor charge of failure to file/pay a Missouri income tax return.
Court documents allege Hensley was fired by Ferrellgas on Oct. 7 after revealing to a colleague that he had made propane deliveries to customers and pocketed the money.
According to the allegations, Hensley stated to a colleague that the thefts had been going on for years and that he had bypassed the meters on the propane delivery trucks. He estimated the loss may be $250,000 worth of propane.
According to the allegations, Hensley showed his colleague a list from his wallet that showed customer names and amounts collected or owed.
At his termination, authorities say Hensley told executives that his financial difficulties led to the theft of the propane. Hensley confessed that he and two colleagues had been stealing propane from Ferrellgas.
Detectives say they began to identify and telephone Hensley’s customers. Authorities say Hensley told customers that Ferrellgas gave him an annual allocation of propane for his personal use that, if unused by Hensley, he was free to sell to his friends and family. Personal checks were typically written, made payable to Hensley. The customers said this arrangement dated back to 2005, according to court documents.
Hensley’s bank records were subpoenaed and more customers were identified, according to the allegations. Around 17 customers were identified who had written checks to Hensley for propane, with the checks totaling more than $85,000.
An additional five customers were identified who had paid cash to Hensley for propane, with an estimated total of $10,000.
Meanwhile, Manville was also fired by Ferrellgas on Oct. 7 after admitting he was involved in the thefts of propane, according to the allegations in court documents.
Manville stated prior to 2014 he was asked by Hensley to make approximately 15 deliveries of propane totaling about 2,000 gallons. Manville stated that Hensley, his supervisor, offered him time off with pay for making those deliveries, according to court documents.
Platte County Sheriff’s Department detectives subpoenaed bank records of Manville, through which five customers were identified who wrote checks to Manville for the purchase of propane and the checks totaled $4,749 since 2011.
In addition, one customer paid Manville cash for purchases of propane between 2013 and 2016 totaling $18,600, according to the court documents.
The charge against Manville was filed last week. He bonded out of jail by paying 10 percent of a $7,500 surety bond.
The charge against Hensley was filed on Feb. 9. He bonded out by posting 10 percent of a $20,000 surety bond.
Hensley is being represented by attorney D. Bryant King of Kansas City in Platte County. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 16.
Manville’s next court appearance is set for May 30. He is being represented by attorney Shane Eldred Bartee of Weston.
Ferrellgas has had previous similar problems. In 2010, a former Ferrellgas Inc. employee was sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison for embezzling from the company.
Scott Beeson, 53, of North Kansas City, had pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering related to charges of stealing $3.5 million from the Overland Park-based propane retailer.
Beeson had worked as a fleet manager in Ferrellgas’ Liberty office from 1995 to 2008.
Prosecutors charged him with creating bogus invoices from Ferrellgas vendors Ideal Solutions and Helgers Trucking and Sales for work that never was done. Authorities say he approved the invoices and sent Ferrellgas payments to the vendors, which then kicked back most of the proceeds to Beeson.
Authorities said Beeson put those payments into his personal bank account or one created for Prominent Youth Inc., a nonprofit educational organization that Beeson controlled.