A Seattle-area man apparently is on the run, after claiming a popular laxative didn’t work, asking for a refund and then pocketing the $98,002 the manufacturer sent him by mistake.
Sandoz Pharmaceutical Corp., makers of Ex-Lax, discovered the irregularity soon after it issued the check to Barry Lyn Stoller, of Kent, Wash. The amount equaled Stoller’s ZIP code, 98002, instead of the $1.99 refund he had requested.
Stoller deposited the $98,002 check in his bank on Sept. 20, 1993, then eight days later closed the account. He took the entire amount in cash, plus about $16,000 of his own savings, and disappeared, according to documents filed by the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Stoller, a 38-year-old drywall worker, was charged earlier this month with first-degree theft for taking money “that had been delivered under a mistake.” A warrant has been issued for his arrest, but police said they have no leads.
Authorities said there are a number of reasons why so much time lapsed between the cashing of the check and the filing of charges.
After discovering the error, the New Jersey drug manufacturer hired a private investigator to try to find Stoller. The investigator later turned the case over to Kent police.
Kent Detective Steve McVicar said the case was further delayed by problems of getting evidence from Sandoz Pharmaceutical, laboratory analysis of Stoller’s handwriting and verification of Stoller’s identity.
“He had no criminal history and we had no fingerprints,” McVicar said. “We wanted to make certain that Barry Stoller was really the Barry Stoller” suspected of signing the check and withdrawing the cash.
Stoller was last seen in the Spokane area in the fall of 1993. He has friends and relatives there, but they haven’t cooperated with police, McVicar said.
McVicar said he believes Stoller’s delay in withdrawing the cash indicates “he probably had some qualms about it.” A Sandoz spokeswoman said the erroneously large check was written by a newly installed automated check-paying system. “Obviously, since then we’ve corrected the problem,” Janice McFarland said.