FORT WORTH, Texas - A former bookkeeper for the Stockyards Northside Rodeo has been sentenced to prison for stealing $1.3 million from the rodeo over three years.
According to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office, D’ann Elizabeth Wagner was given a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty to theft of property over $200,000.
Wagner reportedly used the stolen money to go on vacations, gamble at WinStar Casino, and buy two Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
The Stockyards Championship Rodeo is a popular stop for tourists looking for the Texas experience. Tickets are $25 apiece. And for three years, authorities say Wagner was keeping all of the money from online sales for herself.
Tarrant County Assistant DA Brooke Panuthos specializes in embezzlement and fraud cases. She says the theft happened over the course of three years from January 2014 to March 2017.
Investigators discovered Wagner had set up a Paypal account on the rodeo’s website. But she had linked her own person informational and used a debit card from Paypal to spend the money on herself.
“She was the exclusive account holder. It had her name, her date of birth and her social security number,” Panuthos said. “In order for it to be a first degree felony, the threshold would be over $200,000. So you can image $1.3 million is six times that minimum threshold amount. So pretty significant.”
One of Wagner’s coworkers discovered what she was doing in 2017 when he attempted to revamp the website. Wagner had hidden the fraud by making 11,000 small transactions.
“Essentially, she’s committing 11,000 thefts over and over and over again,” Panuthos said.”
Wagner took the money and went on a shopping spree, gambling at WinStar, buying vacations to Las Vegas and New Orleans along with two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. She also spent $400,000 buying games on iTunes.
“She can stop at any point,” Panuthos said. “But she doesn’t.”
“For this to be a reflection on rodeo would just be a shame because this has nothing to do with rodeo,” said Tim Lanier, the general manager of Cowtown Coliseum. “The acts of one person should not reflect the sport. For the pain and agony that she caused the owners of this group, I think the time fits the crime.”
The Stockyards Northside Rodeo operates out of the Fort Worth Stockyards.