Henry the Triceratops wearing Santa Claus hat
The Missouri Institute of Natural Science shared a photo of Henry the Triceratops wearing a digitally-imposed Santa Claus hat. (Photo by Missouri Institute of Natural Science)

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Triceratops walked the lands of North America sometime in the Late Cretaceous period, about 66-68 million years ago. Apparently, the dinosaur can still be defrauded in the 21st century.

A Greene County man pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in federal court Nov. 9, admitting he fraudulently applied for and collected COVID-19-relief funds and also stole money from the Missouri Institute of Natural Science, a private museum just south of Springfield.

According to court documents, Daniel Pomeroy admitted to submitting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications in his name for two businesses that did not exist. Pomeroy successfully obtained two PPP loans that totaled at least $38,000. 

In addition, Pomeroy admitted to fraudulently transferring nearly $78,000 from the Missouri Institute of Natural Science’s account with Simmons Bank to his own accounts.

Matt Forir, the museum’s director, said Pomeroy was in no way affiliated with the museum or any of its staff or volunteers. 

Matt Forir is the director of the Missouri Institute of Natural Science. (Photo provided by Matt Forir)

“We had no idea who this guy was. He hacked into Simmons Bank,” Forir said. “Our accountant is the one that caught the problem. We then alerted the bank to the scam. It was us that tipped them off. So then the bank asked us if we could call the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. We did, and that’s what kind of got the investigation started.”

According to court documents, the museum discovered that from Sept. 1, 2021, to Dec. 6, 2021, $77,855 was transferred out of the museum’s account without authorization with another party fraudulently using the museum’s information.  

There were approximately 60 fraudulent transactions associated with the account. Records provided by Simmons Bank showed several of the money transfers went through an entity known as “Wise” and the fraudulent money transfers were then sent to Pomeroy, the documents say.

Museum’s volunteer accountant first to notice the fraud

Forir credited Barb Houser, the museum’s volunteer accountant and board member, with catching the fraudulent transactions. Pomeroy reportedly started out with small amounts that went unnoticed.

“This guy was hitting us for months,” Forir said. “It wasn’t until he got greedy and got one that was like $900, which that alerted our accountant.”

The date of Poleroy’s sentencing hearing in federal court has not yet been set, but Forir said he intends to give a victim’s impact statement at that hearing. 

The bank refunded all of the FDIC-insured money back to the museum’s account, Forir said, but damage has been done. The museum’s accounts were frozen for some time, which meant the museum could only do cash transactions and Forir had to physically visit the bank every week to make deposits and withdrawals. All of the museum’s pin numbers and passwords had to be changed and they had to contact all of the museum’s vendors. 

The Missouri Institute of Natural Science is home to hundreds of animal, plant, and mineral specimens and is free to the public. (Photo provided by Matt Forir)

“It was a horrendous amount of time that our staff, especially our accountant Barb Houser at KPM had to go through to deal with this,” Forir said. “It was terrible.”

Forir said he saw a news story about Pomeroy’s guilty plea Thursday night and was frustrated it wasn’t made clear that Pomeroy was not associated with the museum in any way.

“I want to get the record straight,” Forir said. “The fact is we are ramping up efforts to do a fundraiser here to do a classroom addition.

“And so when we ask the community for that funding to expand our museum facility, we don’t want people to sit there and think ‘we’re not going to do this because these bozos can’t keep an eye on their own money.’ I don’t want that to be the narrative. […] We are the ones that caught it.”

About Missouri Institute of Natural Science

The Missouri Institute of Natural Science Museum is located at 2327 W. Farm Road 190 and is open 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

Admission is free and the museum is mostly staffed by volunteers. It houses hundreds of animal, plant, and mineral specimens, including Henry — the largest male Triceratops fossil uncovered, being at least 30 percent larger than other Triceratops found.

Learn more at the Missouri Institute of Natural Science Museum’s website and Facebook page.

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers public safety, the courts, homelessness, domestic violence and other social issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald