Saturday, January 24, 2015

Elderly Michigan Bookkeeper Pleads No Contest To Embezzling $100K

From on 1/23/2015:

The 71-year-old former longtime bookkeeper of a small Muskegon metal-finishing company has pleaded no contest to embezzling more than $100,000 from her employer – an increased charge from what she originally faced.

Muriel Elizabeth Carlson entered the plea Tuesday, Jan. 20. Sentencing by Muskegon County 14th Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks was scheduled for Feb. 23.

The no-contest plea is the equivalent of a guilty plea but can't be used against her in case of a civil lawsuit.

Carlson, of Twin Lake, stands convicted of embezzling more than $100,000 over more than six years from Spec Abrasives and Finishing Inc., 543 W. Southern Ave. in Muskegon. According to the arrest warrant, the thefts occurred between October 2007 and early 2014.

The charge is a maximum 20-year felony, though the actual sentence will depend on state guidelines and will likely be lower than that.

Carlson had been charged with embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000, a maximum 15-year felony. But the charge was upped after prosecutors and the defense didn't come to an agreement on how much Carlson stole and consequently how much restitution she should pay. Prosecutors increased the charge after consulting with the victims.

"There's not been an agreement between our office and the defense as to the total amount," Chief Assistant Muskegon County Prosecutor Timothy M. Maat said. "However, our office based on all the evidence we've received is convinced it's $100,000 or more."

Carlson accepted that and pleaded no contest to the higher charge.

The total amount stolen remains in dispute. Maat said prosecutors believe the total is more than $150,000. The exact amount of restitution will be decided by the judge after a restitution hearing.

Carlson's attorney, Edward Wasiura, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday, Jan. 23.
Jim Perreault, co-owner of Spec Abrasives, says the total amount stolen may be
$182,000. He and his partner, Jerry Tanis, want to get as much of the embezzled money back as possible.

Carlson kept the firm's books and had control of its accounts since before the partners bought the firm in 2003, Perreault said.

He said the thefts, which amounted to thousands of dollars a month, hurt the company's business and the other employees. Spec Abrasives employs 10 people, he said. The lost profits would have been reinvested in the business, Perreault said.

Perreault said the partners trusted Carlson. Although he said their books were audited, accountants checked them monthly and bank officials looked at them, Carlson because of her position was able to regularly funnel company funds to her personal use.

"It's embarrassing, but we're not the criminals here, we're the victims," Perreault said. "So we shouldn't need to be embarrassed. She faced me every day and was stealing money every day.
"She was like my mother," he said. "I trusted her wholely and completely with everything. Do we need to be so cold that we can't trust anybody anymore?"

Perreault said the embezzlement came to light after the company hired an assistant bookkeeper to help out Carlson in hopes of lightening the burden on her due to her age.

After the thefts were discovered, the company fired Carlson and notified authorities. She was charged in May 2014.


Read the whole story here.

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