SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

March 16, 2013

Tami, deeply betrayed

Crime & the courts

Man admits $1.5M theft as he ran mansion

By Eric Lyttle THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A Pataskala man pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing more than $1.5 million from Tami Longaberger, CEO of basket-maker Longaberger Co.

Douglas Thompson, 53, was head of the house staff at Longaberger’s $10 million estate near Nashport in Muskingum County from 2002 until he was laid off in 2011, said Thompson’s attorney, Kort Gatterdam.

During a financial restructuring ahead of selling the property, accountants began to find “significant problems with the way finances were handled,” said Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor Ron Welch.

Douglas Thompson, 53, worked for CEO Tami Longaberger

  • Thompson was arrested on Oct. 31. Detectives confiscated nearly everything from his Headleys Mill Road home, including books, furniture, grills, rugs, wine, a vacuum cleaner, even sunglasses.

Welch said Thompson was trusted with cash, checks and Longaberger’s credit card to operate the Eschman Meadows Estate, a 200-acre property that remains for sale.

The investigation revealed that Thompson had used the estate’s funds to pay his own credit-card bills of more than $1 million, to make cash payments to himself of more than $185,000, and to write checks to himself for more than $430,000. He accumulated unauthorized charges on Longaberger’s account in excess of $300,000, Welch said.

Authorities say Thompson used the money for, among other things, home improvements, travel and entertainment, computers and electronics, and auto repairs.

Welch said his office is confident that it’s the largest theft in Muskingum County history.

In pleading guilty, Thompson admitted to stealing $1.5 million.

A restitution agreement calls for Thompson to give up his house — which Gatterdam said could bring in $50,000 to $75,000 after the mortgage is paid off — a Jeep Cherokee and 401(k) accounts worth about $150,000 after early-withdrawal penalties. His other property also will be auctioned off.

A civil suit, filed by Longaberger in conjunction with the criminal case, was settled on Monday with Thompson signing a consent judgment that requires restitution of three times the amount stolen, plus all pay earned between Nov. 4, 2004 — the date of his first criminal act — and Feb. 28, 2011, when he was laid off. The total is more than $6.5 million.

Thompson is free on $2 million bail until sentencing, which has not been scheduled. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison for the second-degree felony. elyttle@dispatch.com

HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE    Tami Longaberger’s 20-room Georgian brick mansion has 57,000 square feet, including a ballroom.

@ewlyttle

(One can only hope that Tami’s fortunes will finally right themselves.  It’s been a marvel to see how this valiant lady keeps on keepin’ on;  yet no matter how bad stuff can get, she strives forward using that good stuff between her ears and her gut instinct if I may call it that. 

We pretty much all care about Tami, she is one of our own.  A very good business woman who continues striving beyond ordinary limits, not only for her own family legacy, but for the very employees she cares about so much.  And they know it.  The Longaberger line has been sort of a National Treasure and we all want the company to succeed and be healthy.   Of course  the Global situation and our own recent economic climate hasn’t helped

This betrayal and theft takes the cake, doesn’t it?  It’s hard to rationalize, but I can almost understand how it could happen for when one is running at full speed and bears respect and trust  for others, you automatically expect the best of them.  I bet this hurt deeply.  But one learns from mistakes  (for this ‘was’ one); you pick yourself up and move on.  Trust, but verify.     just a well-wisher, among the many,   .       .  Jan)

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