Baierl Acura (pictured) was victim to an enormous embez... Baierl Acura (pictured) was victim to an enormous embezzlement scheme (Credit: Katelynn Metz, Patch.com)
It sounds almost like the background plot of the movie Fargo: a car dealership executive looking for an easy financial score arranges the kidnapping of his own wife and daughter of the dealership owner to line his pockets with ransom money. Only this time, in real life it was a dealership executive in suburban Pittsburgh who systematically embezzled more than $10 million to buy such absurd luxuries as a first-edition Harry Potter book, VIP seating for Mass with the Pope and a private dinner with the celebrity chef known as "The Barefoot Contessa."

Patricia Smith, 58, is getting six-and-half years in prison for what a judge called "mind boggling" behavior. Smith's stealing from her employer over several years works out to $4,000 a day seven days a week. How did she do it? She was the controller of the dealership, so she was solely in charge of the money and accounts.

According to a report in trade publication Automotive News, Smith's thievery included: more than 800 transfers of company money to her own accounts; $1.8 million to charter private jets to Europe and the Caribbean; $44,500 for Super Bowl tickets that apparently also netted her dinner with Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey; four houses, ten vehicles, gold coins, jewelry and a fur. Ironically, the vehicle she kept for herself was a Honda Crosstour, perhaps one of Honda's least popular and worst-reviewed vehicles.

Smith's annual salary from the dealership was $53,000. Her deception lasted some six years at the dealership before she was caught. She covered her tracks, according to prosecutors, by putting sold vehicles back into unsold inventory in the dealership's records, covering revenue shortfalls created by her embezzlement. In the movie Fargo, the dealership's general manager was nailed because he was silly enough to supply the kidnappers with a car from his own dealership that he couldn't account for in his inventory.

Smith's attorney argued that the embezzler suffered from depression in part due to family tragedies early in life, and that she overcompensated by focusing on material things. Her family and friends wrote to the sentencing Judge about how "generous" a person Smith is. No word, though, about how her family imagined she could afford a constant stream of luxury goods for them and her, including buying multiple homes, on her modest annual salary.

"We're glad that justice has been served and this matter is now behind us," Lee Baierl, president of Baierl Automotive, the victim, said in a statement. "Despite the amount of funds taken over time, there were no adverse impacts to our daily operations. Our business is doing well, and we have adopted stronger measures to prevent such a crime from ever occurring again."

The Baierl family is a prominent name around Pittsburgh where the name is on a major building at The University of Pittsburgh and a YMCA. The family is understandably embarrassed over being duped for so long and has only issued prepared statements on the matter.

Car dealerships are susceptible to embezzlement because of the amount of high-priced inventory flying through their lots and computer systems. Experts say that dealership owners, as well as owners of any small to medium-sized business, have to employ more than one person with the power over finances and inventory and have a system of checks to avoid these fiascoes.


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  • 119 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      hahahahahahahahaha
      jdshannon03
      • 2 Years Ago
      I worked at an auto dealership in Texas for almost 10 years. Our office manager, whose duties were much like a comptrollers, was convicted for embezzling $1,600,000 over a period of time. There was probably more, but that was the amount that could be proven. These crimes do happen.
      HonknDodge
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well she made roughly $1,719,666.66 each year including her yearly salary for each of her six years. WOW if that's all she made, I'd be depressed too !!!
      corvair63
      • 2 Years Ago
      At least he had some religion about him and wanted to go see the Pope.
      Herbert
      • 2 Years Ago
      Now, please People don't be to hard on this Women, after all she visited the Pope................. what a piece of Work
      ckevinbaldwin
      • 2 Years Ago
      The chislers got chiseled!! Con men conned.
      belldn3
      • 2 Years Ago
      VIP seating for Mass? At least they were religious.
      • 2 Years Ago
      the banks that provide 'flooring' of the new car inventory have auditors that frequent the dealerships to check inventory. (To see if any cars are missing-i.e., sold and not reported to the bank). Impossible to miss that many cars, unless the dealership has enough working capitol to have been purchasing the cars themselves. Highly unlikely!?
      Dereck
      • 2 Years Ago
      The "Real" reason why it's so easy for this to happen at major Car Dealerships is that they are all "Government-owned" and Operated by Government appointed Contractors who sometimes get their names on the Dealership along with "Of whatever City the Delership is located", many also lie as if they "Privately Own" the Dealerships also. If they investigated how many Politicians received some of that money, then they'd be doing something "Real".
        madkisser
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        Lol ........you are so stupid.
        madkisser
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        Lol ........you are so stupid.
        madkisser
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        Lol ........you are so stupid.
        rbroyhill
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        You are an idiot! Most dealerships are family owned and very generous donors to their communities. I don't know where you got your "information" about "government ownership", etc. but your head is so far up you will probably never see daylight. Suffocate quietly.
          Kevin Church
          • 2 Years Ago
          @rbroyhill
          Wow, you are really funny. And, I agree with you, Dereck sounds like an idiot.
        arvig
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        Ayep. I guess Dereck's tin foil hat is one exceptionally tight today. I've been friends with car salesmen in the past. In many cases I've met the owners of said dealerships. In one case one boyhood friend was the son of the owner of a small new car dealership. Gee, why didn't I notice any of these things Dereck? Of course none of this will convince you, delusional people always twist facts and someone else's personal experience to fit their world view. If Dereck believed that the sun was made of lemon pudding, and I told him it obviously wasn't, I suspect Dereck would twist that to mean I was part of some plot to help hide that the sun isn't made of pudding.
        vlady1000
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dereck
        You are so far off, it is not even funny. You dream this stuff up (and then forget where it came from) or what?
      klavezo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Boy howdy American Honda must be mad...........
      usa6000
      • 2 Years Ago
      crazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzy
      scificarolinaguy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Interesting that "The Barefoot Contessa" would have dinner with this guy for money, but could not be bothered to let a terminally ill child cook with her. Nice values, huh?
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