Couple says life savings is gone, stolen by employee
CLEVELAND, TX John and Ezetta Dueitt have spent their lives building Cut-N-Shoot Inc., a construction supply company in Conroe. In 2006, they hired Loretta Blankenship to run the office. "We thought the world of her, my wife and I both, we trusted her," said John Dueitt. They say they treated her like family until last year when John happened to answer the phone while their secretary was at lunch. It was the bank telling him he was overdrawn. "I said you must be messed up on this somehow or another because my secretary just gave me my balance this last Friday showing I had $80,000 in the bank. He said, 'Well, you definitely don't have that in there,'" said John. The Dueitt's say Loretta Blankenship stole more than $340,000. Prosecutors say she was ignoring bills while giving herself frequent paydays by forging checks. She pleaded guilty to theft in court last month. Blankenship will spend the next twenty years in prison, but the investigation does not stop there. Her husband is a Cleveland police officer and the chief wants to know how much he knew and when. "We are expected to be held to a higher standard," said Cleveland Police Chief Mark Bradshaw. Chief Bradshaw has placed Loretta's Blankenship's husband, Officer Bluford Blankenship, on leave and is conducting an internal affairs investigation. Conroe police are investigating any criminal wrongdoing on the officer's part. "Especially a theft of that multitude, we have an integrity issue here with the police department and it's something we definitely want to keep intact," Chief Bradshaw said. With the Dueitt's life savings is now gone, Loretta Blankenship left them with $80,000 in unpaid bills and thousands in bank overdraft fees. "It took me and my wife's savings for the last 60 years to get us brought back out of this and to keep the business going plus pay all my creditors. I pay my bills religiously," said John. Now their dreams of retirement may never happen. "They can have that money stashed somewhere and go have a party on it," said John. When we asked him if he thinks he'll ever get their money back, John replied, "I doubt it's there, but I'm gonna try." The Cleveland police chief says Officer Bluford Blankenship will remain on paid leave until the investigation is concluded. He has been a police officer with Cleveland for two years. You can read more about this story in our Houston Community Newspaper partner, The Cleveland Advocate.
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