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Woman headed to prison for embezzling from GH builder

Becky Vargo • Jan 16, 2019 at 7:00 AM

A 39-year-old Muskegon woman was sent to prison for at least five years for embezzling more than $650,000 from a Grand Haven builder.

Ottawa County Judge Jon Hulsing said that the public needed to be protected from Jessica Kreason, a woman who he said conducted “scores of fraudulent transactions” while employed by Hamstra Builders in Grand Haven Township.

“You are the worst Class B offender for someone who doesn’t have a criminal record,” Hulsing told Kreason during her sentencing hearing Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

The judge gave Kreason credit for one day already served in jail and for the $26,000 she had paid toward $107,000 in restitution.

Hulsing said he didn’t understand why the restitution was so low until he realized that some of the loss was recovered from some of the other parties involved in the fraud with the help of a civil lawsuit. Kreason was the only one criminally charged in the case.

Asked during the hearing to comment, Kreason denied trying to get rid of evidence stored at a friend’s house, saying instead that it was bags of her own bank statements and that they were trying to make room for a bedroom for her son.

Kreason also said she agreed to plead guilty so that her husband wouldn’t be charged, and so there could be one of the parents home with their three children.

At least 52 checks were made out to Kreason’s husband, Hulsing said, and several ATM withdrawals amounted to more than $150,000. Some ATM withdrawals were made at a casino.

The lawsuit claimed that Kreason channeled money from her employer to herself, her husband and other businesses in an amount totaling $1,015,499.38. This occurred while Kreason was employed as a part-time bookkeeper for Hamstra Building LLC from 2008 to 2014.

Mary Hamstra said that she and her husband, Todd, have been juggling their lives around the court dates for the case for the past four and a half years. She noted being anguished and stressed after the money was discovered to be missing. Bills were not paid and a lot of tax money had not been paid, she said. Hamstra said they had to liquidate their assets to pay taxes and are still working hard to recover from the theft.

Kreason originally agreed to pay back $650,000 in 2014, but it took a lawsuit to force her to pay a much smaller amount, Hamstra said.

Hamstra asked the judge to sentence Kreason in a way that sends a clear message to Ottawa County that white-collar crime will not be tolerated.

“We are pleased that Judge Hulsing made a strong statement in the sentencing of Ms. Kreason,” the Hamstras later wrote in a statement. “Ms. Kreason used many ways and means to commit the crime of embezzlement. We are relieved that she received a significant sentence, providing protection to area citizens and hopefully serving as a deterrent for others considering this type of activity.

“We are thankful that this chapter of our story is now closing after four and a half years,” the statement continued. “We worked with excellent legal and financial professionals who successfully led us through this difficult time. We are pleased to say that it has been ‘business as usual’ for Hamstra Builders for the past few years.”

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