Posted February 19, 2017 4:35 pm by

Former health club employees embezzled $1.7 million, grand jury says

Two former employees of Franco’s Athletic Club near Madisonville were indicted Friday (Feb. 17) in a scheme that bilked the club out of more than $1.7 million, the North Shore district attorney’s office said. Emily L. Davis, the club’s former finance director, and Jennifer E. Thompson, the former human resources director, were to be arrested on charges of racketeering, theft, identity theft and money laundering.

Davis, 42, of Ponchatoula, and Thompson, 45, of Mandeville, are accused of conspiring to steal cash and electronic funds between March 1, 2008, and July 31, of 2016, prosecutors said. They allegedly took more than $1.4 million in cash for their personal use, and redirected to themselves more than $165,000 in personal, in-house credit account charges through the use of fictitious bank accounts. They are also accused of “erasing” more than $19,000 in personal loans from their employer’s 401K retirement fund.

Davis and Thompson were charged with racketeering, money laundering and three counts of theft. Davis was charged with an additional count of theft and two counts of identity theft, for allegedly using the name of the club’s owners to obtain $1,000 without authorization on two different occasions, according to the district attorney’s office.

Both women, who were dismissed from the jobs at Franco’s last year, were to be taken into the custody of the Sheriff’s Office. The charges are based on an investigation by the joint financial crimes task force, headed by Sgt. Stefan Montgomery and detective Jason Mire of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and Assistant District Attorney Butch Ward.

The privately owned Franco’s has been a mainstay in the west St. Tammany area for decades. Its main club is at 100 Bon Temps Blvd., off Louisiana 22 between Mandeville and Madisonville. It also operates a Crossfit studio in Mandeville and has a club at 2116 Magazine St. in New Orleans.The club has more than 14,000 members and 300 employees at its three locations.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, owners Ron and Sandy Franco, along with club management, said they are cooperating fully with the investigation and have trust in the judicial system.

“It is most unfortunate that we have experienced a breach of trust from individuals who were a part of Franco’s for many years,” the statement reads. “In spite of the shock and disappointment that this experience has caused, we believe strongly that this was an isolated incident and will not allow it to deter our faith in humanity. Franco’s has never been more committed to our employees, our members, and our community.”