A Pataskala man pleaded guilty March 11 to stealing more than $1.5 million from Tami Longaberger, CEO of basket-maker Longaberger Co.
Douglas Thompson, 53, was head of the house staff at Longaberger's $10 million estate near Nashport in Muskingum County from 2002 until he was laid off in 2011, said Thompson's attorney, Kort Gatterdam.
During a financial restructuring ahead of selling the property, accountants began to find "significant problems with the way finances were handled," said Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor Ron Welch.
Thompson was arrested Oct. 31. Detectives confiscated nearly everything from his Headleys Mill Road home, including books, furniture, grills, rugs, wine, a vacuum cleaner, even sunglasses.
Welch said Thompson was trusted with cash, checks and Longaberger's credit card to operate the Eschman Meadows Estate, a 200-acre property that remains for sale.
The investigation revealed that Thompson had used the estate's funds to pay his own credit-card bills of more than $1 million, to make cash payments to himself of more than $185,000 and to write checks to himself for more than $430,000. He accumulated unauthorized charges on Longaberger's account in excess of $300,000, Welch said.
Authorities say Thompson used the money for, among other things, home improvements, travel and entertainment, auto repairs and computers and electronics.
Welch said his office is confident that it's the largest theft in Muskingum County history.
In pleading guilty, Thompson admitted to stealing $1.5 million. A restitution agreement calls for Thompson to give up his house -- which Gatterdam said could bring in $50,000 to $75,000 after the mortgage is paid off -- a Jeep Cherokee and 401(k) accounts worth about $150,000 after early-withdrawal penalties. His other property also will be auctioned.
A civil suit, filed by Longaberger in conjunction with the criminal case, was settled March 11 with Thompson signing a consent judgment that requires restitution of three times the amount stolen, plus all pay earned between Nov. 4, 2004 -- the date of his first criminal act -- and Feb. 28, 2011, when he was laid off. The total is more than $6.5 million.
Thompson is free on $2 million bail until sentencing, which has not been scheduled. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison for the second-degree felony.