The onetime financial officer for a west metro medical device company has been charged with stealing nearly $700,000 from her employer and using some of the money for vacations, clothes, silver bullion and to finance a business venture on the side.
Karen J. Breyette, 53, of St. Bonifacius, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with seven counts of theft by swindle. The charges cover $682,881. Prosecutors suspect Breyette actually stole closer to $900,000 from PenRad Technologies, but the five-year statute of limitations ran out on some of the alleged thefts.
"We prosecute numerous cases each year of people embezzling from their employer or a volunteer organization, but this is one of the largest amounts we have seen," County Attorney Mike Freeman said Tuesday in announcing the prosecution. "We expect to get a conviction and will seek restitution for as much of this as possible. However, it is another warning for businesses not to put too much financial control in the hands of just one person."
Breyette is scheduled to make her first court appearance on Sept. 1. A telephone message was left with her Tuesday seeking a response to the allegations.
According to the criminal complaint:
Breyette was hired by PenRad in January 2008 as controller/bookkeeper and began stealing five months later. She used the company credit card to pay for hotels while on vacation, buy clothes and for other personal items.
She also allegedly used the company checkbook to write four $4,000 checks to herself and another check for more than $6,000 to pay a company for silver bullion bars, which were recovered at her house.
But the largest amounts were embezzled through the payroll system, according to the complaint. Breyette would record the correct amount of salary for her paycheck in the payroll ledger but then transfer more than that into her account electronically.
Then in 2011 and 2012, she allegedly entered her salary correctly but did not move the money into her bank account. Prosecutors viewed this as an effort by Breyette to repay the earlier thefts. That tactic, however, fell more than $100,000 short and "is in essence an admission that she had previously stolen from her employer," the complaint read.
Breyette also is accused of making wire transfers from PenRad's account to other bank accounts. Two of the transfers, for a total of $42,000, were sent to Gentle Green Cleaning, a Savage company in which she was a part owner until this spring.
A third transfer of $32,000 was made to a personal bank account in Macomb, Mich., but she has yet to reveal to authorities who received the money.
The case was investigated by Minnetonka police because PenRad was located there until moving to Buffalo in Wright County in 2012.
PenRad, founded in 1995, provides software tracking and reporting systems for mammography, radiology and vascular lab work.