ALPINE, Utah (ABC4) – A man from Alpine, Utah, has been accused of taking $1.5 million from a company and its businesses after he was hired to serve as the Chief Financial Officer.
Michael Eric Lee, 53, faces charges four second-degree felony charges of money laundering, five second-degree felony charges of theft, one second-degree felony charge of a pattern of unlawful activity, and a misdemeanor charge of theft.
According to charging documents, Lee was hired to be the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for several businesses owned by Richard Allred in January 2019. Under their agreement, Lee would work part-time until July of that year while he worked part-time for another company.
Lee reportedly agreed to a six-figure salary that would increase once he moved to the CFO position full-time. Allred alleges the hiring agreement did not include any additional forms of compensation including bonuses besides the base pay. Charging documents say Lee was also allowed to hire his family members as temporary contract employees to help with shipping and other jobs, under the same compensation agreement.
With his position as CFO, Lee was reportedly given unlimited access to the company’s financial accounts as well as the accounts for all the accounts owned by the company. In total, Lee was allegedly given access to 47 financial accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal and Venmo, among others.
Lee reportedly approached Allred in 2021 to purchase his businesses, saying they were losing money. The claim prompted Allred to hire a forensic accountant to determine why the businesses were losing money.
According to the court documents, the forensic accountant found the business was financially sound, but did report a “significant deficiency” in the company’s funds. The forensic accountant reported several unauthorized transactions done by Lee.
According to the report, Lee allegedly made nearly 2,000 purchases including movie tickets, gas, groceries, meals at restaurants, jewelry, airline tickets, hotels, and car rentals. Lee also allegedly used the money to fund vacations for himself and his family to Hawaii, California, Moab, New York, Wyoming and Idaho, as well as his daughter’s wedding and his own personal vehicle purchase. The forensic accountant also reported Lee had transferred a large amount of money into the accounts of family members that were not associated with payroll.
Allred claims that he, nor the company’s board approved of any of the alleged transactions or transfers and that Lee even agreed to a salary reduction in March 2020. Charging documents further allege that the funds used were not accounted for in Lee’s W2s for the tax years of 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In total, Lee allegedly took $1.5 million from Allred’s company and its related businesses.
Charges are allegations only. All arrested persons are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.