Pizza shop embezzler sentenced

A former manager of Marietta’s East of Chicago Pizza was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to 30 days in jail for stealing an estimated $15,000 from the restaurant over the course of several years.

John M. Foster, 36, of 119 North Hart St., pleaded guilty Jan. 8 to a fourth-degree felony count of theft.

Foster, who had been employed at the restaurant since 2005, spent years tweaking gift card sales and expenditures and altering accounts payable so he could pocket the difference, said restaurant owner Tim Myers.

“Because a gift card is plastic, it’s not a tangible form of currency,” he said.

The subtle discrepancies and alterations were not immediately obvious but were eventually discovered by another manager, said Myers.

“We found out in September of last year when my main manager…found the deposit totals did not add up,” he said.

The changes were traced back to Foster, who had been altering computerized financial records to cover his trail. The discovery started the incredibly time consuming process of delving into daily records to see how much Foster embezzled, said Myers.

So far, the company has traced the thefts back to 2010 and estimate Foster stole more than $15,000 in that time. Myers said he does not expect to find significantly more money stolen before that because the thefts tended to taper off as they went back in time. However, Myers added that he would like to have the $15,085.67 restitution figure verified by an accountant.

Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth offered to postpone the sentencing to work out a definitive restitution figure, but Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings said that could take months and requested to proceed.

Foster’s attorney Eric Fowler also requested sentencing go forward as planned.

Foster said he wanted to put the event behind him and apologized to Myers.

“I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to my former boss. I’m ready to start putting this behind me and taking care of what needs taken care of,” he said.

Burnworth sentenced Foster to 32 days in jail with credit for two days served and ordered him to serve three years of community control. The maximum for Foster, who wasn’t prison eligible on the charge under Ohio law, would have been six months in jail.

He also ordered the $15,085.67 restitution figure but reserved the right to adjust it pending verification by an accountant.

Fowler said his client was prepared to pay whatever restitution was ordered.

Myers said he felt the punishment was light considering the staggering amount of money stolen and the fact that Foster’s actions demonstrated a longtime pattern of wrongdoing.

“I think it’s a slap on the wrist for that amount of money,” said Myers. “How can you come in every day of work and face people…like nothing is wrong for years?”

Myers said he would have liked to have seen Foster receive a lengthier jail stay in the county jail.