Employee charged with stealing more than half-million dollars from business


A St. Bonifacius woman will make her first court appearance next week after being charged with stealing nearly $700,000 from the company that employed her, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Karen Jane Breyette, 53, was charged with seven counts of theft by swindle over $35,000 for a total of $682,881. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Sept. 1.

According to the criminal complaint, Breyette was hired by medical device company PenRad Technologies in January 2008 as controller/bookkeeper and began stealing five months later. Breyette appears to have stolen nearly $900,000, but some of the thefts cannot be charged because of the five-year statute of limitations.

“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,” Freeman said. “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 took the money in a variety of ways. She used the company credit card to pay for hotels for her vacations and to purchase clothes and other items for her personal use. She also 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, according to the complaint.

The largest amounts were embezzled through the payroll system. Breyette would record the appropriate amount of salary for her paycheck in the payroll ledger but then transfer more of that into her account through the electronic payroll, the complaint states. Throughout parts of 2011 and 2012, she reversed that and would record her salary correctly but then make no transfer to her bank account. This apparent attempt to repay the earlier thefts fell more than $100,000 short and “is in essence an admission that she had previously stolen from her employer,” according to the complaint.

Finally, Breyette made wire transfers from the company’s account to other bank accounts. Two of the transfers, for a total of $42,000, were sent to Gentle Green Cleaners, a company in which she is a part owner. A third transfer of $32,000 was made to a personal bank account in Macomb, Michigan, but so far she has refused to say who received the money, according to the complaint.

The case was investigated by Minnetonka police because the company was located there until moving to Buffalo in Wright County in 2012.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)