Accountant sentenced after pleading no contest

A local accountant who allegedly stole more than $300,000 from area restaurants entered a plea of no contest to one charge of grand theft this week. She was sentenced to four years’ probation and must make restitution in the amount of $6,800.76 to one of the restaurants. Her second charge is on Judge Michael Heisey’s docket for July 17.

In July 2015, Wendy Carol Madrigal, 47, was arrested after she was accused of stealing over $13,000 from one restaurant. According to the restaurant’s owner, she also did not pay their taxes for 2014 but pocketed the money instead.

Detective Marty Faulkner, who investigated the case, said he believed Mrs. Madrigal cheated the restaurant owners out of $13,392.58. That amount, he continued, did not include her fees of $45 per week. The amount of her fees, from 2012 until October 2014 when she was fired, totaled $6,615.

In his report, the OCSO investigator documented how the dollar amounts taken by Madrigal continued to grow through the years until finally, in 2014, she paid no state unemployment taxes for business for the second and third quarters. Instead, she allegedly kept the $3,661.77 that should have been paid to the state, pointed out the detective.

That total amount, continued the detective, does not include interest or penalties. Had the restaurant owners not filed a report with the sheriff’s office when they did, “… a warrant would have been issued against them for failing to pay (state) taxes,” stated the report.

Also that same year, Detective Faulkner documented how Madrigal paid no federal unemployment taxes for the business in the first, second and third quarters. This amounted to a total of $664.58.

He said the business owners had documentation from the Florida Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that the money was still owed.

Detective Faulkner stated Madrigal simply inflated the amount of taxes owed in 2014 and kept the money.

“Due to the mismanagement of the (restaurant owner’s) business funds, they are now paying a higher calculation rate, which created a larger fee for the employer for workmen’s compensation,” said Detective Faulkner.

Ten months later, Madrigal was again arrested and accused of stealing from a client. This time, the stakes were much higher. The arrest details how Madrigal allegedly bilked the chain out of $301,156.49 between 2011 and the end of 2013.

Her alleged thefts cost 40 employees their jobs when the owner of the eatery had to close the doors of one of his restaurants. The owner then found himself in trouble with the IRS.

“The IRS has levied tens of thousands of dollars in civil fines and fees against Cowbo’s BBQ and Steak Co. and its owner, Jim McCoin,” noted Detective Bill Saum. “Madrigal’s actions and the IRS fines also caused Cowboys in Stuart to close due to a lack of sufficient operating funds.”

In 2011, continued the report, she began adding excess monies to the payroll totals and the taxes. The restaurant would give her a check for the amount she told them and she would then deposit them in her business account, Madrigal Management LLC.

The entire thing was especially difficult for Mr. McCoin because he considered Madrigal a friend.

“Our daughters played volleyball together,” he said.

Eric Kopp contributed to this story.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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