Felony conviction doesn’t disqualify daycare worker

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NEW TOWN, MO (KTVI)-- Some parents are just now finding out their kids` daycare is being run by a felon.  They fear many other parents don`t know the truth and that it could impact their bank accounts.

Susan Hemminghaus said, "How is a convicted felon able to own and run a daycare?"

Hemminghaus found out the hard way.  Her two kids attended Little Town Learning Center in New Town.  She set up automatic payments with her bank, but the payments were supposed to come out just once a week.

Hemminghaus showed us erratic debits, "June 26, June 28, July 2nd and July 3rd."
Reporter Chris Hayes asked, "About four in a week?"
Hemminghaus responded, "That was just like an eight day period."

She calculated almost $900 in extra deductions.   Then she says the owner, Karen Vehlewald, offered to pay back a little a time, but the checks bounced.

Hemminghaus laughed, "Adding 18 dollars in bounced check fees, insult to injury, haha."

Vehlewald is currently on probation, for writing bad checks.  It was so much money, she`s a convicted felon because of it.  She was sentenced to five years of probation in April, 2013.

Even her employees didn't know, like former Little Town Director Loren Carrino who said, "Every check started to bounce.  I would never get my money.  I went six weeks once without a dime."

That was in May.  Carrino says she`s still waiting for her thousand dollars of pay.

She explained, "It was always 'I`ll bring it to you next week. I`ll bring it to you tomorrow."

I headed over to Little Town, where I noticed a note with dollar signs greeting parents. It says `earn unlimited free tuition by referring families.`  While we were outside, a woman came out to tell us Karen Vehlewald was gone --  getting chemo.

I asked, "What`s your name?"
Woman answered, "I`d rather not say."
Hayes followed up, "Ok. You`re not Karen though?"
Woman: "No."

But that was Karen.  She came out a couple minutes later, off camera, admitted it was her and demanded we leave. But this deserves answers, which we won`t leave alone. A spokesman for Missouri`s Office of Child Care Licensure gave us a recent inspection report, which makes no mention of the director`s criminal conviction.

Vehlewald was convicted after operating another daycare called Stepping Stones Christian Academy.  Then she opened Little Town, which cares for about 15 kids according to a recent inspection.  Missouri regulators did not respond directly about how Vehlewald can operate a daycare as a felon, but a spokesman sent me a portion of State Statute that shows regulators look case by case to see if convictions endanger children.

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