John C. McDaniel stole approximately $70,000 from the Jackson Hole Shrine Club over the course of seven years by writing checks to himself under the guise of his business Cache Creek Accounting, according to police.
McDaniel, 74, was sentenced Tuesday morning in Teton County District Court to probation, more than two years after the Shriners noticed thousands of dollars missing and called police.
“I feel badly for the whole thing,” McDaniel said in court. “I am just so sorry that I messed up so many people’s lives in this whole thing. I should not have done it.”
The embezzling started in 2010, according to court documents, when McDaniel was the club’s treasurer.
“During that time the Shrine Club believed that approximately $65,000 to $75,000 was taken without authority by John McDaniel,” an affidavit states. “From November 2010 to until January 2017 there were 68 checks written to Cache Creek Accounting from the Jackson Hole Shrine Club account. The Jackson Hole Shrine Club did not contract with Cache Creek Accounting for any services.”
The checks were written sporadically and in different amounts each time, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars at a time, according to public records.
McDaniel wasn’t authorized to make purchases on behalf of the Shriners, documents state, and he wasn’t permitted to pay or reimburse himself.
McDaniel was ordered to pay $63,000 in restitution, which he paid in full thanks to a timely inheritance, his attorney Dick Mulligan said.
“I immediately agreed to repay everything I could as fast as I could,” McDaniel told Judge Tim Day.
Mulligan told the court that his client was a workhorse of the Jackson Hole Shrine Club during his time volunteering for the organization. He was directly involved in fundraising and helping coordinate large events like the now defunct Jackson Hole Cutter Races.
“He had an unfortunate instance where he tripped and did something that was in violation of the law,” Mulligan said. “According to other Shrine members, they support leniency for Mr. McDaniel.”
Special Prosecutor Ember Oakley, of the Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, represented the state in the case.
“Mr. McDaniel stole from a charitable organization,” Oakley said. “That in itself is a pretty egregious crime.”
Oakley said McDaniel’s thievery caused a division among Wyoming Shriners.
“It caused ripples that are still going on today,” she said. “It is unconvincing to me to discuss the long hours he worked and all the money he made fundraising when he was draining it on the other side. You can’t characterize it as tripping up. You don’t trip up for seven years repeatedly taking a bunch of money for yourself, an extremely large amount.”
Several members of the Jackson Hole Shrine Club sent letters to the court in support of McDaniel. They said they’ve forgiven him because he paid back the money. They also were worried how the news will affect fundraising efforts.
“The majority of members of both the local Shrine Club and our temple, our governing body for northern Wyoming, did not want to see this prosecuted,” former Jackson Hole Shrine Club President A. Rodgers Everett wrote. “The generosity of the citizens of northern Wyoming and especially Teton County has the potential to be sorely damaged should word of this be made public. A couple overly zealous fellow Shriners at the temple in Sheridan felt it necessary to overstep the wishes of the majority and push for prosecution.”
The Jackson Police Department was notified of the embezzling in September 2017. An investigation revealed evidence that McDaniel stole the money.
Judge Day said Shriners who are worried what the case will do to their fundraising efforts should not be blaming police or prosecutors.
“This has caused conflict in and among the Shriner’s club and that’s no one’s doing but Mr. McDaniel’s,” Day said.
McDaniel was never arrested for the crime. In a plea agreement, the 74-year-old pleaded guilty to felony aggregate theft.
His age and lack of a criminal record were considered in sentencing.
The charge carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison, but McDaniel got three years of probation with a deferral, meaning if he completes probation without issue a conviction will not be entered.
McDaniel is no longer a member of the Jackson Hole Shrine Club.