LIVING THE GOOD LIFE WITH AGENCY FUNDS

Published on .

Feb. 26, 2001

By Laura Petrecca

Before they learned he had embezzled millions from their employer, Berry Brown agency employees just assumed their chief financial officer, Phil Schieber, was someone who was financially well off and enjoyed the good life.

Schieber kept 24 racehorses on his sprawling Oklahoma ranch, 'Shorecrest.'
Single and gay, he frequented Dallas hot spots and upscale strip clubs such as the trendy La Bare. He spent his vacations on Virgin Island beaches and the slopes of snow-covered Aspen mountains, and he navigated morning traffic on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or in a vintage Jaguar. During after-work happy hours, he treated friends and colleagues to $95 glasses of Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac.

Schieber often bragged about his stock market coups. Long, complex phone conversations with his broker boomed across the office. He touted his investment gains and parceled out stock tips. "He would say things like, 'I shorted Yahoo!,'" then loudly speak of his returns, said a former employee. His behavior fueled agency gossip he


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inherited money from an elderly female friend and invested it well. Schieber didn't discourage the speculation.

Didn't suspect CFO
Agency employees didn't suspect their CFO of criminal actions. Schieber's salary, estimated to be in the low six figures, along with his self-promoted investment savvy, seemed to afford him an above-average lifestyle. His Dallas home, although situated on tony Shorecrest Drive, didn't look extravagant from the outside, especially compared with the mansions down the road. But one former colleague described the interior of the three-bedroom, three-bath home as "a page from Better Homes & Gardens." Its 25-by-29-foot master bedroom suite boasted a study and fireplace. Its kitchen had marble countertops, its backyard a pool.

While many at the ad agency knew Schieber had a weekend retreat in Love County, Okla., only a handful knew its scale. "I thought he just had a small farm," said one former employee.

Although he was a fixture on the Dallas nightlife circuit, Schieber maintained a low profile in Love County, where he maintained the 528-acre Shorecrest ranch. Locals said they rarely saw him around their rural community and didn't know much about his lifestyle. He spent little time in the local town of Marietta, which lacked big-city amenities such as movie theaters or nightclubs. Those who knew him say Schieber instead would often charter planes to fly in male companions from out of town for the weekend. He and his dates would spend days four-wheeling over the ranch's rugged terrain and quiet nights at his red-brick ranch home, which was equipped with a satellite dish, large-screen TV, surround-sound audio system and high-powered telescope. In a nod to his more extravagant side, photos of Schieber and friends on chartered ocean excursions adorned the ranch's walls.

24 race horses
Schieber, a horse lover since his youth, kept 24 prized racehorses on the ranch, including the yearling Freedom Faster, for which he paid $27,000, and Chestnut Tree, which he bought for $20,000. He also owned 24 head of cattle, and his ranch was dotted with colorful bird feeders. He belonged to prestigious organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Angus Association.

He spent $458,500 for his Oklahoma property, then paid out nearly a half-million dollars for renovations. Love County locals say he compensated one worker some $36,000 to paint the estate's four miles of black pipe fence.

For all his extravagance outside the office, Schieber was frugal when it came to company spending. He scrutinized department budgets and was hesitant to upgrade or replace office equipment. A former colleague described him as "tyrannical" about expenses. Revealing a rare glimpse into his past and his psychology, he let several co-workers know

In college, Schieber (fourth from left) was member of the choir and band.
he paid for college himself, and he expressed disdain for those who came from wealthy families.

Former choir boy
Born in Lima, Ohio, on March 6, 1962, Schieber was the oldest of eight children, with four sisters and three brothers. He grew up on a modest farm and was a member of the 4-H Club. A serious student, he attended Findlay College, in Ohio, where he majored in business systems analysis. A member of the choir and band, he graduated cum laude in 1984. A number of friends described the brown-haired, hazel-eyed Schieber as "average looking." At 5 feet 9 inches, he often wore boots to appear taller. His physique fluctuated from trim to pudgy.

"He was a leader and a decision maker," said his sister Susan Schroeder, who lives in Ohio. "He talked about investing, and we thought all along, 'He's doing well.'" Schroeder said her brother was munificent, offering to pick up the tab for family vacations.

"We were shocked" to find out about the embezzlement," she said, "and we're still grieving. It's affected us greatly, and I'm sorry he affected all those innocent people. He'll be missed."

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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