JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man who worked in the mailroom of VyStar Credit Union for more than two decades is accused of embezzling $5.4 million in checks intended to pay for postage, according to a federal indictment.
Duane Sikes, 64, was arrested in Bradford County Friday and charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and five counts of embezzlement. He is due to be arraigned at the U.S. District Courthouse in Jacksonville on Tuesday afternoon.
According to the indictment, between from 2007-2017, some of the checks Sikes stole outright and he took others that were made out to the U.S. Postmaster to the main post office downtown and bought rolls of stamps -- $3.6 million worth of stamps -- and sold them to Mystic Stamp Company in New York. Mystic turned around and sold the stamps for 80 percent of their face value.
COURT DOCUMENT: United States v. Duane Allen Sikes
Mystic's president, Don Sundman, said they were suspicious and notified the U.S. Postal Service.
"We just wanted to make sure that everything was on the up and up," Sundman told News4Jax. "They said, 'We’ll check into it,' and they came back to us sometime later and said it’s fine."
Sikes worked at the corporate headquarters of VyStar in Jacksonville from 1994 to 2017.
The indictment doesn't reveal a motive for the theft. His neighbors said he drives a car that's about 20 years old and his house is modest, at about 1,200 square feet.
Sikes has apparently spent money producing. His IMDb.com page credits him with producing dozens of independent films, many shot in Jacksonville
"He told me he had a trust fund," said Sharon Cobb, a friend who has worked with him on film projects, including a recent release, "Ortega River Rats." "Really, people were amazed how much money he had to spend on filmmaking."
Cobb said Sikes told her VyStar fired her about a year ago.
"This seemed awfully odd to me, that he had been there all those years and then just suddenly he was let go like that," Cobb said.
VyStar said Sikes was dismissed last year and released this statement:
Upon our discovery that a former employee had defrauded the Company during his employment, VyStar immediately conducted a more comprehensive internal review, reported the matter to authorities and is cooperating fully with their investigation. Importantly, this isolated incident did not in any way compromise member personal information or accounts, and is immaterial to the Company’s financials. VyStar does not tolerate behavior that is contrary to our culture and high ethical values, and has taken immediate action to address the situation and even further enhance our internal processes.”