Lifestyle Foods' embezzling CFO must pay $683K restitution
Despite having embezzled nearly $700,000 from Lifestyle Foods, its former chief financial officer testified in court Tuesday that in reality, it's the company that owes him money.
But York County Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn was unimpressed with Pradeep Jaipaul's claims.
"We have serious doubts about Mr. Jaipaul's credibility," he said.
Renn ordered Jaipaul, 37, of 1 Graystone Manor Drive in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, to pay $683,001.78 in restitution to Lifestyle Foods. Its grab-and-go fresh foods — such as salads, entrees and sandwiches — can be found in convenience stores.
Jaipaul, known as Mike, avoided prison time when he pleaded guilty in November to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company.
At the time, senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake said the punishment of seven years' probation for the third-degree felony theft count was appropriate because that way Jaipaul could begin paying restitution, once Renn determined the exact amount.
A restitution hearing was scheduled for Jan. 3, but defense attorney Korey Leslie said he asked for a continuance at Jaipaul's request. The hearing was rescheduled for March 1, but the same thing happened, Leslie told the judge.
No more delays: In court Tuesday, Leslie informed the judge that Jaipaul asked for a third continuance because he'd just provided Leslie a detailed spreadsheet the attorney hadn't had a chance to review. Renn denied that request.
"That's your client's problem," he told Leslie. "It's time for the matter to be resolved."
During Tuesday's restitution hearing, Jaipaul testified that instead of taking his $75,000 salary from the fledgling company, he instead took company money when he needed it, "to offset my (lack of) paychecks." He said he was a 5 percent partner in the business.
"I had free rein," he said. "I didn't have to ask permission to do anything."
Jaipaul contends Lifestyle Foods owes him more than $300,000.
That led Blake to note in court that it seemed as if the defendant was trying to undo his guilty plea.
"It's too late for that now," Judge Renn replied. "He's pretty much stuck with that."
The background: Jaipaul was charged with various counts of theft as well as receiving stolen property and access device fraud in February 2013, records state.
He worked for York-based Lifestyle Foods since the company formed in January 2007 and was solely responsible for maintaining all financial records from then until late 2012, according to court documents filed by York City Police Officer Jeremy Mayer.
Court documents state Jaipaul spent the funds, in part, on gasoline, restaurant meals, a gym membership, hotel and travel expenses and ATM cash withdrawals, as well as at home-improvement stores. Testimony Tuesday revealed he also used company money to pay for his wife's personal trainer and to make purchases at Apple iTunes, Macy's and Blockbuster Video.
Jaipaul also wired money to international companies that were not vendors of Lifestyle Foods and transferred and wired money to his personal bank account and to his wife's bank account, documents state.
Lost money: Jaipaul, an accountant, testified the company was losing money and that he was moving around company money, basically "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
"We became insolvent," he said. "Checks started to bounce."
But Lifestyle Foods President Jason Bross said Jaipaul didn't have free reign to use company money as he saw fit and wasn't authorized to "offset his salary" by using company funds to pay personal bills.
He testified that after Jaipaul was fired, he discovered company financial records had been erased.
Current CFO Jacy Carroll confirmed Bross' testimony, saying financial records were "in shambles."
"We had to rebuild everything from scratch ... after he left," she said.
Now profitable: She testified that once Jaipaul was no longer with Lifestyle Foods, the company started turning a profit.
Asked after the hearing if he intended to begin paying restitution, Jaipaul shook his head.
"I'm filing a civil suit to offset that," he told The York Dispatch.
He also said he's not guilty, but pleaded guilty "because I was advised to by my attorney."
Blake, the prosecutor, scoffed at the claim.
"My review of the very thorough police investigation ... makes it clear that Mr. Jaipaul was stealing every bit of money he could get his hands on," Blake said. "He assumed no one was watching ... and for a time, it worked."
Leslie confirmed he advised his client to plead guilty because "I thought it was in his best interest."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.