Bogus Billing Busted

Former Murphy executive allegedly netted $82,000 in scam

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

EL DORADO, Ark. -- A former Murphy USA executive embezzled nearly $82,000 from the El Dorado, Ark.-based company in a t-shirt billing scheme that began in 2007, authorities alleged in charges filed Tuesday, reported The Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Paul C. Wells, a former retail marketing vice president for Murphy Oil Corp., was charged with seven felony theft counts after authorities said he submitted inflated invoices for promotional t-shirts distributed to gas station employees.

Wells told CSP Daily News that personal circumstances and conflicts are behind [image-nocss] the charges against him; however, he expects to be fully exonerated once the case goes to trial. "I've fully cooperated with the authorities all the way through the process, and I'm confident that at the end the truth will come out and my name will be cleared," he said. He added that his latest business venture, a consulting company started up after leaving Murphy, is doing well. "The consulting business has been great; the response has been phenomenal from the very beginning, and I'm very excited about that opportunity."

Authorities said Wells, 43, orchestrated the bogus billing system after asking his wife to set up a t-shirt design business, which she started with her aunt. Wells turned in invoices ranging from $1,600 to $51,960 from the women's company, Wildcat Marketing, after already submitting legitimate invoices from another t-shirt vendor, the arrest affidavit cited by the newspaper said.

Neither Wells' wife, Tamara Wells, nor her aunt, Rhonda Day, face charges, prosecuting attorney Robin Carroll told the paper.

The Wildcat Marketing invoices, totaling $94,131, were filed between April 2007 and May 2008. Company auditors estimated Wells spent about $12,223 to ship the shirts to company stations, where employees wore them as advertising. The rest of the money--some $81,907--was stolen, the arrest affidavit said.

Internal auditors at the oil company began investigating Wells last year after the accounting department flagged one of the shirt invoices as suspicious, the arrest affidavit said. In late January, the company turned over its findings to the Union County sheriff's office.

Wells was arrested Monday and released from the Union County jail on a $50,000 bond.

His last day with Murphy was Dec. 4, 2008. "As a result of an internal investigation, certain irregularities were discovered, and the matter was turned over to the authorities," a company spokesperson told CSP Daily News.

Authorities did not say in the documents charging Wells how much he is accused of pocketing after payment was made to Day for her work on the t-shirts. "We're still seeking additional information regarding this case," Carroll said.

Day told authorities that she cashed the checks from Murphy, took out a "small fee" for herself and then forwarded the rest of the money to the Wells' bank account, the arrest affidavit said.

When company auditors asked Wells about Wildcat Marketing, he denied knowing the owner and said he found the company online, said the arrest affidavit. He told the auditors that he got quotes from other companies and it was the lowest per shirt, according to the affidavit.