In what investigators are describing as a large white collar crime, a Forsyth County woman has been charged with embezzling about $540,000 from her former employer.
According to authorities, Linda Marie Michaels, 45, turned herself in Thursday at the Forsyth County Detention Center.
Michaels, who faces one count of theft by taking, was released hours later after posting $5,610 bond, a jail spokeswoman said.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Maj. Dan Jagoe said the arrest was the result of a months-long investigation.
Jagoe said Allen Mintz, the owner of Pro Air Systems in northeastern Forsyth, and his accountant notified authorities at the end of August that they suspected Michaels of stealing from the business.
"Her primary responsibility was payroll and billing," Jagoe said. "Over an extended period of time she has signed company checks to herself, but put it in their books as going to vendors.
"Then she would go and either cash those checks or deposit them into her account."
Jagoe said Michaels, who was the business manager and had worked for the company since 2001, was fired after the owner made the discovery.
She reportedly wrote about 330 checks to herself in the past six years.
The investigation was lengthy, Jagoe said, because authorities had to obtain and review records going back several years from two different banks.
Mintz is still in shock about the theft. He said he trusted Michaels and for a while just assumed they weren’t making much profit.
But after Michaels began taking trips and making large purchases, he started wondering where she got the money to pay for it all.
"She was just spending money that was well above what I pay her, and I had a pretty good idea of how much her husband made, and in the end it just didn’t add up," Mintz said.
The final straw came when Michaels showed up for work in a brand new sport utility vehicle that Mintz estimated cost about $50,000.
"I just instantly got nauseous and I came inside and went to digging through my books," he said. "I found one check and cross-referenced that check and realized that she had put one thing in the computer but had written the check to herself."
In a few minutes, Mintz discovered some $30,000 had been taken in about a month and a half.
He said the money that went missing was the company’s operating capital, crucial for keeping Pro Air running.
"Her greed stole our retirement and now we may not be able to retire because of what she has done," Mintz said. "We may not even be able to stay in business."