Stuart “Mickey” Wiles, a former chief financial officer of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of wire fraud for embezzling more than $300,000 from the company, according to press reports.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Vermont stated that Wiles “used his authority as CFO to cause company checks to be issued for charitable contributions, unspecified professional fees, or unspecified legal settlements when, in fact, no such expenses or obligations existed,” according to wire service accounts. He also managed the ice cream company’s credit card system, reported the Burlington Free Press, then reimbursed himself for personal expenses charged to his company credit card.
He then reportedly used the proceeds for personal expenses, such as vacations, entertainment, car repairs, clothing, electronics, gifts — even a $58,000 addition to his home in Shelburne, Vermont.
Wiles worked at Ben & Jerry’s for nine years, the last four as CFO, before resigning in May 2004, according to the Free Press. After he left the company, Wiles’ actions were discovered by an internal audit, and a follow-up investigation was performed by the Internal Revenue Service, the Associated Press reported.
“Clearly, it’s an isolated incident,” said company spokesperson Chrystie Heimert. “It doesn’t reflect on the character of the outstanding people who work for this company. Ben and Jerry’s is committed to the highest standards of ethical business conduct.” The Free Press pointed out that both Ben & Jerry’s and the U.S. attorney’s office stated that there has been “full cooperation” between the two organizations.
Wiles will appear before U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions to formally plead guilty, added the newspaper, although a date has not yet been scheduled. He faces as much as 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, although the AP suggested that his ultimate penalty could wind up being much less severe.