Anchor Advanced Products Inc. filed a civil lawsuit against a former employee and her husband, who the company alleges bilked it of more than $1 million since 1989. The Knoxville, Tenn., custom molder will not endure a major financial setback from the alleged theft, but it is suffering ``anguish from a long-term, trusted employee doing this,'' John Nugent, Anchor's chief financial officer, said in a telephone interview.
Anchor had sales last year of about $160 million, and was tied for 18th place in Plastics News' recent ranking of North American injection molders. The private firm has six plants, about 200 injection presses and about 2,000 employees.
Paunita J. Carter and her husband, Robert, also face criminal charges relating to thefts alleged to have occurred when Paunita Carter oversaw Anchor's accounts receivable. Robert Carter is implicated under a Tennessee statute that attaches criminal responsibility to a person who aids and abets in a felony.
Nugent said Anchor's insurance company has partly reimbursed the firm for the alleged thefts. Anchor, in its suit, will try to recover the allegedly stolen money in full from the Carters, but Nugent said the exact amount missing is still unclear. Anchor fired Carter, 38, in January. She is in Knox County jail with her bond posted at $750,000.
Her husband, 39, was released when he made his bond of $250,000.
Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Jeff Blevins said Paunita Carter faces five counts of theft over $60,000 and two counts of theft over $10,000 in Knox County. Her co-defendant husband faces five counts of theft over $60,000.
Paunita Carter also faces several theft charges in Hamblen County, where Anchor had its headquarters in Morristown before it moved to Knoxville in 1994.
Robert Carter faces no charges there because he married Paunita Carter after Anchor moved its head office.
Nugent hopes to resolve the civil suit this year but the timetable is uncertain because the Carters are taking steps to block the case.
Paunita Carter's lawyer for the criminal charges, Mark S. Staple-ton, said he has filed several motions in the criminal case, including motions to dismiss the case or combine the charges into one charge. Knox County court will hear the motions Sept. 19 and the case is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 4. Hamblen County court set an arraignment date of Oct. 14.
Robert Carter's lawyer could not be reached for comment. He has his own lawyer for the criminal charges because prosecutors will ask the spouses to testify against each other, according to Stapleton, who represents both Carters in the civil suit.
Stapleton said prosecution attempts to get the Carters to testify against each other suggests ``they don't have a hard case.'' He said the cases could pose problems for banks that passed checks, but he would not comment on his defense strategy.
Public documents allege Paunita Carter put stolen money into an account of the First Tennessee Bank.
The Carters were arrested June 30 after a Knox County grand jury returned an indictment alleging they stole money from Anchor beginning in August 1994. The District Attorney General's White Collar Crime unit investigated the case.
The Carters recently filed for personal bankruptcy but the case was dismissed.