Woman sued by machine shop for missing $521K

The owner of a Coopersville shop claims his former office manager took the business for more than half a million dollars.
Becky Vargo
Feb 10, 2014

A lawsuit filed recently in Ottawa County Circuit Court claims the woman used much of the money to purchase supplies for a bar and restaurant she owns in the Muskegon area.

Police are completing a criminal investigation of Muskegon resident Rhonda Jimenez and the information will soon be turned over to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges, said Capt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

Jimenez worked for Philip’s Machining Inc., 80 Mason Drive, Coopersville, for 14 years, said owner Jim Pleune.

Jimenez was like part of the family, so not only is there the financial loss, but also a strong sense of betrayal, Pleune said.

“We found some irregularities,” Pleune said of  how they discovered the problem. “We kept looking and found some more.”

Jimenez was terminated on Nov. 18, 2013, Pleune said.

He said he believed she was stealing from the company for at least seven years.

 

See the links below to read the actual lawsuit.

 

The lawsuit claims Jimenez used a variety of ways to embezzle “at least $521,218.13” from Philip’s Machining.

Jimenez used six different Bank of America credit cards issued Philip’s and Source Group Technologies, LLC, which is also owned by Pleune.

She “charged at least $427,193.09 on these credit cards to make unauthorized purchases that were exclusively for her personal use,” the lawsuit reads.

When Jimenez purchased the Cancun Connection Bar & Grill, 2411 E. Hall Road, Muskegon, “the unauthorized purchases accelerated quickly,” the document said.

The lawsuit said examples of the purchases included beer, liquor, bar novelty items, bands, comedians, hotels, restaurant equipment repair, utilities for her restaurant and home and personal vacations.

“She even ran one of the credit cards through the credit card machine at her restaurant for thousands of dollars at a time,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit said to avoid detection Jimenez set up the credit card accounts so that the statements were sent to her personal email address each month.

“She also used a complicated system of partial payments by check and partial payments by electronic funds transfer so as not to arouse suspicion,” the lawsuit said.

Jimenez was also responsible for payroll and added unauthorized reimbursements to her own payroll checks in the amount of $34,767.09, the lawsuit claimed. She also took $27,640 from the company’s savings account for her personal use without authorization.

The lawsuit claimed Jimenez stole money from the company to repay loans “she fraudulently took from her 401(K) account.”

The lawsuit said she forged Pleune’s signature to get the money without his authorization.

It claimed she also embezzled money from the company by fraudulently inflating her  hours worked. “Although Jimenez received a salary from the plaintiff and did not work overtime, she fraudulently claimed 284 hours of overtime between 2010 and 2013, which resulted in her wrongfully receiving $8,141.39 of overtime pay.”

Another $5,179 was taken in purchases made at the local Spartan Store in Coopersville, much of it the lawsuit claimed was for the Cancun Connection Bar & Grill.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Lee Silver, said the lawsuit was filed to try to protect Philip’s Machining’s assets “and to obtain a judgment against her (Jimenez).”

“Philip’s Machining feels the loss of the money that it feels has been taken,” Pleune said.

“The company has survived the economic damage that was done thanks to a dedicated group of individuals who are focused on customer satisfaction,” he said. “The people at Philip’s Machining are fighters who just keep showing up every day to get the job done.”

Calls to Jimenez on both her cell phone and to the restaurant were not returned.
 

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