Ex-Verdego Employee Accused of Defrauding Customers and Company Van Theft
FlaglerLive | August 20, 2014
Note: Verdego Owner T.J. McNitt issued the following statement to customers and the community at large Friday morning (Aug. 22):
To our Valued Customers: As one of the areas only locally owned and operated, Full Service Garden and Landscape Centers, Verdego and its Management realize the value of our customers and reputation. The recent indiscretion of one of our former employees does not change our commitment to our community. We have contacted all affected customers and will ensure that any outstanding work is completed to our usual high standards at no further inconvenience or cost to our customers.
T.J. McNitt, Owner
and Verdego Management Team
Travis Heidinger, a 40-year-old resident of 5 Llanes Place in Palm Coast, was booked at the Flagler County jail Tuesday on four counts of grand theft after an investigation concluded he’d defrauded customers and Verdego and stolen company property. Over the weekend, he’d been arrested and booked at the Volusia County jail on a separate charge, for stealing a van that belongs to Verdego.
Verdego, the large Palm Coast garden center on U.S. 1, had reported its van stolen on Aug. 8. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Investigative Service Division took the case on Aug. 13. Heidinger, investigators learned, had worked for Verdego about a year. Over the course of his employment he gained the privilege of taking home a company vehicle.
In recent weeks co-workers and management began to notice suspicious behavior from Heindinger, according to his arrest report. He didn’t show up for work the week of Aug. 4. Half-way through the week the company owner texted him, asking that he return the work truck he’d driven home. Heindinger, the report states, refused.
Since then, Heindinger sent “incriminating text messages” to the owner, and did so on a daily basis. Investigators collected the messages, with the last one dated Aug. 15. A Honda pressure washer valued at $2,000 was inside of the bed of the stolen truck.
On Aug. 18, Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies recovered the truck and arrested Heindinger on a grand theft auto charge. He bonded out. Since he faces that charge in Volusia, the Flagler charging affidavit does not include it. Rather, he’s charged here for the stolen pressure washer and other charges.
While trying to bring a resolution to the van theft, Verdego’s owner found more alleged criminal activity. On Aug. 3, Heidinger was completing a landscaping project at a Bulow’s Landing address. He was one of the company’s team members, so the homeowner was familiar with. That day, a Sunday, Heindinger asked the homeowner for a deposit check made out in Heindinger’s name. The homeowner told deputies later that he thought the request was a bit suspicious, but he knew Heindinger worked for Verdego, a reputable company.
The homeowner wrote a $1,000 check in Heindinger’s name. Hindinger returned to that same home two days later, finished the work, and requested yet another $1,000 check from the homeowner for completion of the job. The homeowner wrote the check. Verdego never got the money. By Aug. 18, when the homeowner spoke to a sheriff’s detective, both checks had been cashed.
Verdego’s owner uncovered a second incident that followed the same pattern. Heidinger was the supervisor on that job, and was familiar with the customer, who was having work done for a family member at a property on Bren Mar Lane in Palm Coast. Most of the landscape work was complete when, on August 4, Heindinger asked for an $8,225 check–in Heindinger’s name. The customer complied. Verdego never received the money. That check, too, was cashed.
Heindiger in Flagler faces four counts of grand theft. He posted bail on $20,000 bond and was released.