July 25, 2014

Company forced to downsize following suspected embezzlement (9/24/09)

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Sept. 24, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After discovering that a former employee allegedly embezzled tens of thousands of dollars over a four-year period, a local sporting goods company has decided to shut down the retail portion of its business.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
New Horizons in Sports, pictured above on Adams Drive, plans to cease retail operations this month following charges of embezzlement against a former employee.

 


    Courtesy photo
Patrick Taze Huntley allegedly embezzled more than $44,000 from New Horizons over a period of more than four years.

New Horizons in Sports, located off U.S. 2 on Adams Drive, is closing its athletic clothing and equipment retail store this month, but will continue as an embroidery and screen-printing business, according Nancy Johnson, who co-owns the store with her husband, Les Johnson. The store’s Internet business, located at www.newhorizonssoccer.com, will also continue, she added.

According to Williston Police, Patrick Taze Huntley, 56, of Underhill, stole more than $44,300 during four-and-a-half years of employment. Nancy Johnson said Huntley was the company’s controller and had access to all of New Horizons’ bank accounts.

Police charged Huntley with felony embezzlement, which carries a minimum of two years in prison with a conviction. He is due to be arraigned in Vermont District Court on Oct. 6.

The company sells athletic clothing and equipment to local schools and community teams. It also embroiders and screen-prints team names and logos on clothing. The business has been around since 1973, when the Johnsons started the screen-printing side of the business with a focus on soccer. The company has been located in Williston since 1989.

“I’m devastated with the fact that I couldn’t trust someone who was so much a part of this company,” Nancy Johnson said.

Huntley could not be reached for comment.

Williston Police officer William Charbonneau said Huntley was arrested in April after a preliminary investigation. Charbonneau said an employee approached the Johnsons with concerns that Huntley may have been misappropriating funds. After looking at credit card statements, the Johnsons noticed “a pattern” of missing money, Charbonneau said.

Charbonneau said Huntley confessed to skimming money from credit card payments when questioned by police in April.

“The investigation concluded that it wasn’t just credit cards,” Charbonneau said.

After nearly five months of investigating, police allege that Huntley stole money from numerous store accounts. He used the money to pay for dinners, fuel and RV loan payments, among other things, according to police.

Johnson said she considered Huntley a friend and good worker until her “trust was shaken” by the alleged embezzlement. The missing money left the store in debt, and now the Johnsons will try to reclaim some of the lost funds through a lawsuit against Huntley.

In the meantime, New Horizons will close its retail store as the company significantly downsizes.

“We just don’t want to deal with employees anymore,” Johnson said. “This has just taken our confidence away.”

Johnson said her company has employed up to 18 workers. With just the screen-printing and embroidery operations remaining, she said she’d retain only two or three employees. New Horizons will not stay at its current Williston location and will move in October, although Nancy Johnson was unsure where the company would relocate.

 

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