SPRING, Texas – A grandmother has been charged with stealing about $70,000 from Spring day care centers where she worked over a four-year period.
Cheyrl Shaughnessy, 55, is charged with theft by aggregate in Montgomery County. She also faces a separate, similar charge in Harris County.
Shaughnessy was hired by Debbie Bullard to manage her family's two day care centers, Kids R Kids, in May 2009. Bullard stepped down from the day-to-day operation to devote all of her time to caring for her husband, Jerry, who had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
A short time later, Bullard herself was stricken with a different form of Leukemia.
"I would tell her I'm so thankful I have you. I don't know what Jerry and I would do if we didn't have you." Bullard said. "And I truly felt that."
Over the next year and a half, investigators said Shaughnessy stole $39,929 from Bullard's businesses.
Chief Montgomery County prosecutor Tyler Dunman said Shaughnessy pocketed money from petty cash accounts, stole parents tuition payments and doctored payroll records, and cooked the books to cover it up.
"I'm sure she (Bullard) had hoped she left her business in good hands and the person she left to do that essentially stabbed her in the back."
Bullard's husband died on Christmas Day 2010. About a month later, Bullard discovered discrepancies in her business accounts. She hired a private investigator to collect evidence against Shughnessy, who was confronted and fired in October 2011.
"I really couldn't believe it, I really could not believe it." Bullard said. "I trusted her and when I finally figured out what was really going on, I just felt a great sense of betrayal."
Bullard said around that time she received a call from a friend who owned another Spring day care.
She said Theresa Alexander told her, "I have heard Cheryl Shaughnessy was stealing money from you. Well, she was stealing from me, too.'"
According to court documents, Theresa Alexander discovered Shaughnessy stole a total of $31,977 while employed at her business, Alexander's Academy, from 2006 to 2007. Alexander fired Shaughnessy but didn't report the alleged theft to police.
When Bullard heard that she said she told Alexander, "Whether you file charges for not, I'm filing charges because I want this stopped."
Alexander reported the alleged theft in 2012. Shaughnessy was charged in Harris County with felony theft.
Bullard said charges in her case were only filed recently because it took months to shift through the accounts and collect evidence. In that case, Shaughnessy is charged with theft by aggregate in Montgomery County. She was arrested at her home in Spring early Tuesday morning by Texas Department of Public Safety investigators.
The two charges each carry a potential punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
Debbie Bullard is still battling cancer but said she's winning that fight. She said she now wants to see justice done.
"My whole purpose in the hours we spent putting the evidence together was to stop her ... so that she never does this to anybody else." Bullard said.
Shaughnessy was unavailable for comment.