Ex-Central Texas grain company bookkeeper agrees to plea deal

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HAMILTON, Texas (KWTX) A Hamilton man, formerly the bookkeeper at Bottlinger Grain Company, appeared in Waco's federal court for formal arraignment on Tuesday where he entered a plea agreement on embezzlement and mail fraud charges.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske arraigned Reed Michael Baize on Tuesday and allowed him to remain free on a $10,000 unsecured bond, and then accepted a plea agreement in the case, details of which were not disclosed.

Manske did not docket a date for the plea.

Investigators said Baize "gained the trust of his victims by portraying himself as an honest employee of Bottlinger Grain, acting as the bookkeeper and responsible for the company's accounts payable," the indictment that names Baize reads.

Bottlinger Grain, Inc. actually is made up of several business accounts, including, Bottlinger Grain, Inc.; MBLFP, Inc.; Crawford Elevator; and the Bottlinger Family Limited Partnership, all principally owned by the Bottlinger family.

The indictment says that beginning as early as May 1, 2014, through as recently as October 2017, Baize "knowingly devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud Bottlinger Grain, Inc. and to obtain money and property from his victim by means of false and fraudulent pretenses."

Some of the company's money Baize used to buy livestock, other personal items and to pay off personal debts, the indictment says.

Investigators say Baize used software, including Quick Books accounting software, to provide updates and account status to Charles Bottlinger, the company's owner that did not paint a true picture of the company's financial viability.

The government says over the life of the scheme Baize bought and sold livestock and equipment, created fraudulent accounts, had equipment delivered to his home at the company's expense for his personal use and used the company checkbook to make personal purchases.

Investigators said on Aug. 23, 2017, Baize provided a fraudulent Quick Books accounting report to Bottlinger that showed business accounts having a current balance of $765,742.93 when, in fact, the reflected an overdraft of $21,200.21.