A Grand Rapids woman is accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from her family's store in order to gamble and pay off credit card debts.
Lynda Chris Gillson, 62, made an initial appearance Thursday in State District Court in Grand Rapids on nine counts of felony theft.
A criminal complaint alleges that significant discrepancies were discovered in the accounting books at Glen's Army Navy Store after Gillson was asked to resign in September 2018. Gillson later denied the theft allegations.
The store, which dates back to 1946, has been operated by the Eichorn family since 1974, according to its website. It's currently owned by Rusty Eichorn, a former Itasca County commissioner and uncle of current state Sen. Justin Eichorn.
According to the criminal complaint:
The Grand Rapids Police Department was notified in November 2018 that Gillson was suspected of stealing "a large amount of money over the past few years."
Gillson, the sister of Rusty Eichorn, had been asked to leave employment as the store's sole bookkeeper because it was believed she was taking merchandise without paying for it. But the cash theft was not discovered until a new accountant took over.
The store provided police with financial records from January 2016 through December 2018. The records showed significant losses, with numerous checks written out for "change," which managers said was not standard practice. Additionally, it appeared that Gillson had been taking cash directly from deposit envelopes under an old merchandising system.
A review of Gillson's banking records discovered she had deposited many checks in matching amounts to those written out for "change" at the store. A worker stated that Gillson also had been known to arrive at work early to count tills herself, despite that not being part of her job.
Police discovered Gillson had at least 12 active credit cards from 2016 to 2018, making significant payments during that time that "nearly equal or surpass Gillson's legitimate income during these years."
She also "spent heavily" at area casinos and, at one point, on a trip to Las Vegas. At White Oak Casino in Deer River, her player's club card indicated she wagered $136,556 in 2017 alone, losing more than $10,500 by year's end.
"Due to the fluid nature of cash, Gilson's responsibility in handling Glen's monies, and her expenses far in excess of her legitimate income, it is also believed that much more was taken by Gilson during these time periods that was not deposited into her bank account, as reflected in the losses to the store," the complaint states.
The total loss calculated by police over the three-year period was $201,066.
Police said Gillson was interviewed twice, admitting she had a gambling problem but denying that she ever stole money from Glen's.
Gillson told police missing deposits were actually cash advances or convenience checks as she had "gotten financially in over her head with credit cards." She also claimed her mother, a co-owner, was to blame for losses because she had a habit of handing out cash from the store to family members.
But other family members and store employees disputed her explanations.
Gillson remains free with conditions. She is due back in court Aug. 17.