KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Federal prosecutors say a Northland woman embezzled nearly $3 million from the sheet metal company that employed her and banks that supported it over a decade, enriching herself and bankrupting the company along the way.
The FBI arrested Irene Brooner Tuesday after completing an investigation that began in February. Prosecutors have charged her with 11 total counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors say Brooner used several methods to divert funds from Galvmet, Inc., a sheet metal company in Kansas City where she served as the controller, into her personal checking and savings accounts. She then falsified bank records to secure a loan and cover her tracks.
By the time her employer, Galvmet’s then-president Ernie Ketcham, caught on to the scheme in February, the company was “underwater,” in debt to both its bank and creditors. It would soon go out of business with 20 employees losing their jobs.
“Once she was gone and we were able to get into the books and we realized that we owed a lot more money than we even thought we owed,” Ketcham told 41 Action News.
Prosecutors say Brooner spent lavishly with her ill-gotten gains; including more than $50,000 spent at a Plaza jeweler, $400,000 on clothes and other retail purchases and $59,000 on spa visits over a 10-year period.
Brooner also used the money to pay off her mortgage and to “stock, furnish and decorate” the basement bar built by her husband, a carpenter. Referred to by the couple as the “dirty duck,” the bar had at least four tap lines and Brooner spent some $18,000 to keep it stocked with liquor. It was decorated with WW2 memorabilia and weapons.
Brooner’s husband Kyle Brooner told 41 Action News his carpentry work paid for the bar’s initial construction and that with his wife handling the family’s fundraising he knew nothing of her alleged scheme until FBI agents arrived at his home.
“I don't know anything about any of that,” he said. “This was all new to me this morning."
Mr. Brooner said if he knew his wife had been risking their future for “stuff,” he would have stopped her, but he knew only that she made a “good salary” and didn’t ask questions beyond that.
“I never really discussed it with her. She was a CPA and I'm a carpenter,” he said.