Worker accused of embezzling $5.4M from VyStar made films, threw lavish parties
Feds say postal funds from Jacksonville credit union stolen over 10 years
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While working in the mailroom at the headquarters of VyStar Credit Union for more than two decades, Duane Sikes also made a name as an independent film producer in Jacksonville and threw elaborate parties at his Westside home.
This week, Sikes will face a federal judge on 10 counts of mail fraud and five counts of embezzlement. Prosecutors believe he took $5.4 million from VyStar, either in checks that were supposed to pay for postage or re-selling stamps paid for by the company.
Sikes, 64, was arrested Friday in Bradford County and charged. He was due to be arraigned at the U.S. District Courthouse in Jacksonville on Tuesday, but that was delayed until Friday 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, told News4Jax they were suspicious of Sikes and notified the U.S. Postal Service, but were later told it was fine to buy his stamps.
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.
People who worked with Sikes said he self-funded most of the projects and claimed to have a trust fund. Veteran movie producer Bryan Hickox said self-financing is one of many ways small movies make it onto the screen.
"There’s a million ways to finance a film, from twisting the arms of relatives and friends to going to financial institutions," Hickox said. "There are companies that invest. There are companies you can co-partner with and put up part of the money. There’s a 100 different ways that a film can get the financing to be produced."
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