IRS joins probe in ex-michigan.com embezzlement case
A Detroit police detective met Wednesday with Internal Revenue Service officials to discuss possible federal wire fraud charges against a longtime former employee of michigan.com, the business agent of The Detroit News and Free Press.
The woman, whose name is being withheld because she has not been formally charged, is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from accounts used to pay freelance reporters and photographers.
Detroit Police Detective Michael Pacteles, the officer in charge of the case, said his months-long investigation so far has revealed she stole at least $500,000 — “but there might be more than that,” he said. “We still have to check three or four banks where she deposited money.
“She was transferring funds and putting it in different bank accounts, which is where it could become a federal wire fraud case,” Pacteles said.
“In one case, she stole a freelancer’s name and Social Security number and opened a bank account in that name,” he said.
Alan Lenhoff, director of project management and corporate communications for michigan.com, declined comment.
“We can’t discuss a pending case,” he said Wednesday.
The alleged scheme was uncovered by a michigan.com supervisor while the suspect was on vacation, Pacteles said.
Michigan.com is the Gannett Co. Inc. subsidiary that provides business services to The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
“One of the freelancers didn’t get paid, and when a supervisor went to pay the freelancer, they found discrepancies,” he said. “She really had an elaborate thing going.”
When police first questioned the woman in August, she admitted in a written statement to stealing $83,000, Pacteles said.