Portage woman facing 20 years in prison, accused of embezzling from restaurant group
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Portage woman is facing 20 years in prison, accused of stealing more than $100,000 from a popular West Michigan catering company and restaurant group over the course of six years.
The owner of EMA Enterprises, Mike Leeuw, says the betrayal by his friend and former employee Jane Clark is what hurts the most.
And he says he cannot believe someone he was paying could have been stealing thousands from him in return.
"She was a trusted friend; we knew her for 15, 20 years, and when she started coming to work for us we thought hey, here is a loyal employee," Leeuw said.
But that all changed when Leeuw claims he unraveled an embezzlement scheme carried out by Jane Clark, who he entrusted with the company's bank accounts.
"In our world we were devastated; just the betrayal of an employee that was with us, a staff member how that affected our family number one, and our staff...I mean, not getting increases," he said.
The former employee of EMA Enterprises turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday morning.
Prosecutor Jeff Getting alleges the long-time Chief Financial Officer was using the company's bank account to rack up personal expenses.
"When you are talking about a local business losing over $100,000 over a period of time, that is something that has a greater impact, not just to the business but to the community as a whole," Getting said.
Prosecutor Getting says the investigation reveals the activity happened from 2010 through 2016, before being discovered.
"You would notice if $100,000 was gone, but when it is taking place a little bit at a time over a long period of time, it often escapes attention as it did in this case," Getting said.
As the owner of the popular catering company, with seven restaurants across West Michigan, Leeuw says he noticed inconsistencies.
"Hey we're late on these payments why are we late, and kind of sat face to face and said, is there anything else going on, and we never got the right answer or an answer that made sense," he said.
Clark was terminated in May 2016. Leeuw says he hopes this experience serves as a lesson to other area businesses.
Clark is expected back in court on September 5th.
Leeuw says EMA Enterprises is trying to move forward and is stronger than ever.