Man Pleads Guilty To $6M Theft From Grocery Chain
SOUTH HAVEN (WWJ/AP) - A man who handled finances at a grocery chain in southwestern Michigan has admitted to stealing more than $6 million from his employer.
Christopher Pratt, 42, appeared Thursday in Grand Rapids federal court and pleaded guilty to mail fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced on July 29.
Pratt worked for Village Market Food Centers, a chain based in South Haven, since 1995. The United States Attorney’s Office alleged that from 2004 until 2012, Pratt, who was Village Market’s Comptroller, stole over $6 million by diverting funds from the food centers’ accounts to pay his personal credit card bills.
Pratt wasn’t spending all the cash on carts of food, however. Court records show that Pratt confessed to FBI agents that he primarily used the stolen funds to finance and maintain a fleet of over 50 cars, including several vintage American muscle cars.
His fleet included 14 Ford Mustangs, seven Chevrolet Chevelles, four Dodge Challengers, five Chevrolet Camaros, four Jeep Wranglers, three Buick Skylarks, two Plymouth Barracudas, a Plymouth Fury, Pontiac GTO and Ford Torino.
Court records show that Pratt also purchased at least 25 parcels of real estate, mainly in Kalamazoo, and used some of the millions to finance trips to Aruba, Las Vegas and Reno.
In a court filing, Pratt said he concealed his crime by manipulating the books. He admitted to owing approximately $6,548,706.
The government noted several transactions to show Pratt committed mail fraud: he mailed Village Market checks, in amounts of $41,295, $58,494 and $20,006 to cover his personal credit-card bills, Mlive.com reported.
Pratt’s embezzlement scheme unraveled last year when an outside accounting consultant uncovered unusual account activities related to several of Pratt’s personal bank accounts, The Herald-Palladium reported.
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