Thursday, November 13, 2014

Michigan Man Charged With Embezzling $800K From Steel Concern; Blames Divorce

From the Huron Daily Tribune on 11/113/14:

A 34-year-old Akron man on Wednesday seemed to admit in court that he embezzled from a Pigeon factory.

Chad Letson, who is accused of embezzling more than $800,000 from Blue Diamond Steel, told Huron County Magistrate Jessica Testolin that he couldn’t afford to pay his bills after he got divorced.

“That’s why I was doing what I was doing,” he said during his arraignment in Huron County District Court.
According to the Tuscola County Clerk’s Office, Letson’s divorce file was opened Dec. 3, 2010, and Huron County officials allege Letson began embezzling from Blue Diamond Steel in January 2011.
Blue Diamond Steel is a subsidiary of Huron Castings Inc., which employs nearly 800 people. A message seeking comment was left with Senior Vice President Matt Davis at Blue Diamond Steel, but he was unavailable to say what exactly transpired in the case.
However, according to Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson, officers from his office and the Village of Pigeon, went to the Pigeon factory, which is located on Sturm Road in Winsor Township, on Tuesday to investigate the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer hardware.
“Management was alerted from within earlier that morning that something wasn’t right,” Hanson stated in a news release. “Upon looking into it, it was suspected that they had been embezzled from, therefore requesting our intervention.”
Within hours, Letson was in police custody and lodged in the Huron County Jail on a felony charge of embezzlement over $100,000, Hanson reported.
“The circumstances, which led to the arrest, was that the man has been an employee of the company since the late 1990s and had been in a supervisory role since 2011,” the sheriff added. “Apparently, some time after his supervisory promotion, he began ordering expensive computer hardware, which was claimed to be for existing plant manufacturing machines. He would then sell the hardware through the Internet, at a discounted price. Because supervisors are allowed to purchase items without further management approval, as long as it’s below a certain dollar limit, these purchases went undetected until (Tuesday).”
It is believed that more than $800,000 worth of computer hardware purchases were made and sold, according to Hanson.
“Last night, (Tuesday), our office went to his Akron area residence and served a search warrant. Seized during (Tuesday’s) investigation were a 2011 Shelby Mustang, a 2008 Jeep Cherokee, computer-related items and suspected stolen items,” he added. “United States Postal inspectors are also assisting and have seized suspected out-of-state computer hardware shipments. Our office and the (Huron County) Prosecutor’s Office are continuing to work on seizing other personal assets.”
During Letson’s arraignment, Testolin explained the crime of embezzlement of more than $100,000 is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.
While Testolin did not believe Letson poses a danger to the community, she was concerned he is a flight risk, considering the severity of the case. As such, she entered an order that he surrender his passport. Also, he is prohibited from using his Paypal account. 
There was some question during Wednesday’s arraignment as to whether Letson is qualified to have a court-appointed attorney. That is because as of Tuesday, he had been employed and was making about $100,000 a year. However, Letson told the court that he hasn’t had much money since he got divorced. He said he currently has about $400 in his bank account.
Testolin appointed Bad Axe attorney Andrew Lockard to represent Letson in the case, and the court entered a plea of not guilty on Letson’s behalf. His bond was set at $50,000 cash, and he remains in the custody of the Huron County Jail.

Update (2/3/2015): Letson pleads guilty.  Read an update of the story here.

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