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Trusted, longtime employee charged with embezzlement from Auburn business

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn business is missing $94,000 and a long-time, trusted employee is accused of stealing it. Janel Elizabeth MacDougall has been charged with embezzling the funds over several years from InterMotive Vehicle Controls. Before charges were laid, MacDougall worked for 11 years as accounting administrator for the business. MacDougall was initially charged in May with a single count of felony grand theft embezzlement amounting to $11,000. The theft allegedly occurred between Feb. 2 and May 20. But as investigators studied transactions and financial statement over a longer period of time, charges were adjusted to reflect allegations of theft totaling $94,000, court records show. Greg Schafer, InterMotive president, said the Auburn Airport Industrial Park vehicle-control-system design and manufacturing business will survive. But the theft and allegations against MacDougall have been a blow to business morale as well as InterMotive’s bottom line, he said. MacDougall was InterMotive’s first employee hired after it moved from Fairfield to Auburn 11 years ago, Schafer said. The business left Auburn and relocated for six years in Colfax but returned in July 2010. It currently employs 30 people, producing after-market automotive electronics. “Her position grew with the company,” Schafer said. “She was our longest-standing employee and my right hand.” InterMotive first learned of potential financial irregularities last spring when a credit-card statement using a corporate credit card didn’t pencil out. It has since spent hundreds of hours revealing more irregularities in an attempt to decipher other irregularities over several years, Schafer said. “It’s negatively impacted this business well beyond the loss of $100,000,” Schafer said. “There have been morale issues and a sense of frustration. But we’re getting through it. It’s getting better.” InterMotive’s profits and profit-sharing plan will be affected by the $100,000 loss, Schafer said. “It affected every family that works here,” Schafer said. “It wasn’t only stealing from the business, it was stealing from them.” Schafer said InterMotive has been able to assist employees in the past who ran into financial problems. He added that there were no overt signs of embezzling, such as living beyond someone’s means. “It’s frustrating,” Schafer said. “If something was going on, we would have bent over backward to help.” MacDougall was released after her arrest in May on $5,000 bail. Her next appearance in court will be Nov. 28 for an early-status conference. Her defense attorney, Thomas Leupp of Auburn, was contacted for comment but did not return a phone call.