NORWAY — Grover Gundrilling has filed a civil lawsuit against a former longtime bookkeeper over the alleged embezzlement of nearly $742,000, according to New Hampshire attorney Dennis Morgan of the law firm Cooper Cargill Chant.
Court documents, submitted by Morgan, allege Janis F. Woods of Conway, N.H., along with her husband and two others, stole the money between February 2009 and February 2012.
"She had been an employee for many, many years at Grover," Morgan said. "She paid the bills and paid vendors and things of that nature."
He added, "The allegation is that she utilized a signature stamp to pay herself and had a scheme that would allow this to occur over a period of a few years."
The suit was filed in Carroll County Superior Court by Grover Gundrilling, a specialty machining company at 10 Aldrich Ave. in Norway.
In the course of reviewing financial records, company President Chris Hester discovered a discrepancy between the TD Bank statement and the records maintained by Woods, and confronted her about them in January.
Woods had worked for Grover Gundrilling as the staff bookkeeper since July 1991. According to Morgan, her duties included maintaining financial records, preparing payroll checks each week, depositing checks into the company bank account and preparing checks for payment of the suppliers.
One of her duties was to reconcile Grover's financial records with the bank statements. In this case, according to Morgan, the bank statement showed "significantly less" cash than Grover's records maintained by Woods.
"Chris asked Janis to explain the difference and she was unable to do so," Morgan wrote in his complaint. "Janis stated that she was not feeling well and would take some of the documents home with her and work on the problem that evening."
During further review of records on Feb. 1, it was discovered that Woods embezzled nearly $742,000 through 168 fraudulent checks forged to Woods with a "Garth Grover" signature stamp, Morgan said.
According to the court document, she endorsed the checks with her signature or with a stamp that indicated "For Deposit Only" and deposited them in various banks in the Conway, N.H., area without the knowledge or permission of Grover.
Grover, chief operating officer, never signed nor authorized anyone else to use his stamp to sign the checks, Morgan said. The court document says the stamp had been locked in a file cabinet in Woods' office, and she apparently had access to the stamp. The suit also notes that Woods did not have signature authority on the company's bank account.
A review of Woods' bank account shows that after obtaining the money, she transferred it to her husband, Donald Woods, their son, Christopher Fleming, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Wolhert, to use for personal benefit, Morgan said.
The total identified to date is $741,414.66, he said.
He wrote that Woods' bank account showed that her husband spent in excess of $5,000 per month on various credit cards and household bills.
Money also was transferred to Fleming directly and through his business, Fire 21 Pizza, for which Woods had also done bookkeeping, Morgan said.
"She was keeping the business afloat with some of this money," he said. "We can account for a portion that went from Grover to this pizza shop, but it comes short of explaining a lot of things."
Morgan said it appeared that most of the stolen money had been spent.
"The information that we've been able to uncover to date does not show that there are really any assets," he said. "You would think that somebody that had taken this amount of money would have something to show for it, but we are not seeing that."
According to Morgan, the review of Grover's financial records is ongoing.
He confirmed that Woods had not returned to work since the discrepancy was found and was fired from the company soon after.
Hester declined to comment on the case. "I don't want to do anything that would prevent the legal process from carrying on," he said. "This is something that happened to our company several months ago and doesn't have an ongoing impact on our business, so it's more of a legal case at this point."
Morgan said a conference was scheduled for Oct. 10 to allow the court to lay out the case and look at trial dates.