A local drywall company had high hopes for getting back some of the money it lost when an employee stole more than a million dollars, but the company hasn't seen a penny returned more than two years after the employee pleaded guilty.
“We were totally devastated” about the theft, said Joseph Moniz, one of the owners of Westport-based Superior Drywall.
When Moniz hired Grace Oliver to manage the company’s office, he had no idea she had a secret past involving aliases, psychiatric problems and a criminal record that included two prior charges of embezzling from companies that employed her.
She worked for Superior Drywall for three years until her scheme caught up with her in 2006.
Even the story she first told the cops, Moniz says, was a lie.
“Her alibi was she was trying to help out a family member who was crippled and had medical problems,” he said.
The true story became clear once investigators began to unravel the complex embezzlement scheme. She wrote hundreds of company checks to herself, using the cash to buy expensive cars, and pay down mortgages at her house and others'.
She pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston in 2007, and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. As part of her plea, she agreed to forfeit three homes, six vehicles, and more than one hundred thousand dollars in cash.
It was money that Superior Drywall was told would be returned. So far, though, Moniz hasn’t gotten anything.
“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “Not one penny. We've had all the expenses, costs of dealing with lawyers. We've spent a lot of money to try and retrieve it but we have not received not one penny.”
Like other companies in the building trades, Superior Drywall's business has slowed. Vans that used to take Superior Drywall workers all over the state, are now often sitting empty. And Moniz said that he’s had to lay off people because they haven’t gotten the stolen money back.
“We're not sure why they don't have any of their money back,” said attorney John Coyne, who represents Superior Drywall.
Coyne says the judge in the case, US District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf, just has to sign off on the transfer.
“Our understanding from the US Attorney’s office is that there's some type of order that Judge Wolf is waiting to sign or needs to sign,” Coyne said.
Coyne said nobody knows for sure why the order hasn’t been signed.
“My understanding is that he has a backlog of things, he's very busy. This probably isn't the biggest thing on his calendar,” he said.
To Moniz, who built up his successful drywall company from scratch, the long wait for justice has left him wondering just what it will take to get what's left of his company's stolen money.
“I don't really see us getting any money any time soon. I really don't know what it's going to take to get it,” he said.
But apparently what it takes is public exposure. The day after we called Judge Wolf for comment, he signed the orders that Superior Drywall has been waiting for, and thanked us for bringing it to his attention.
The company still needs the approval of the US Department of Justice, which has the final say about the cash and other assets.