Crime & Courts

Former A-OK staff accountant who embezzled at least a half million sentenced to prison

Bruce Harris, longtime owner of A-OK Pawn Shop.
Bruce Harris, longtime owner of A-OK Pawn Shop. File photo

An A-OK staff accountant who embezzled at least a half million dollars from the company to feed a gambling addiction is going to prison for 32 months, a Sedgwick County judge decided Tuesday.

Phillip H. Jelinek, 35, of Wichita, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft connected to the embezzlement in June. Prosecutors say he stole at least $587,450.53 over two years while he was involved in A-OK’s internet sales. His job duties included running the pawnbroker’s online eBay sales. According to a civil lawsuit, he transferred large sums of money from A-OK’s PayPal accounts into his personal bank account and then used at least some of it to gamble.

The thefts proved catastrophic to A-OK. It forced the company into bankruptcy, caused employee layoffs and meant the closure of some locations across Wichita, A-OK Enterprises owner, Bruce Harris, told Judge David Kaufman before Jelinek’s sentence was handed down Tuesday, according to a news release from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office.

Before the embezzlement, Harris owned A-OK locations at 1547 S. Oliver, 1525 S. Broadway, 2021 N. Amidon and 410 N. West St. The branches provided many services including pawn and payday loans, check cashing, gold and gem purchasing and jewelry repair.

Two of the branches were sold off last year as part of Harris’ bankruptcy proceedings and are now owned and operated by someone else.

Jelinek and his attorney asked the judge to put him on probation because Jelinek is seeking treatment for a gambling addiction and already sold his home to help pay back the money he stole from A-OK. But Kaufman refused to be lenient, according to the news release.

Although Jelinek was charged with embezzling just over $587,000, the company estimates the thefts at nearly triple that — $1.5 million, Harris’ attorney previously told The Eagle.

Former city treasurer Ryan Thorpe, 44, of the small Southern Illinois town of Zeigler, was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing more than $321,000. He had expensive tastes. Here's how he spent the embezzled funds.

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