State Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced a recent guilty plea May 18 in an embezzlement case investigated through the Office of Securities Fraud and Financial Crimes Prosecutions (OSFFCP).
Earlier this month, Antwoin Brown, of Vineland, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception. The 55-year-old, a former officer worker on the trucking side of Vineland-based Krichmar Produce, admitted to embezzling nearly $850,000 from his employer over a three-year period.
Between January 2016 and December 2019, Brown wrote hundreds of company checks to himself, stealing $847,347 in the process. That theft was disguised by reporting the checks as payments for fake invoices he created.
The investigation revealed that Brown would cash the company checks at local check cashing facilities and then deposit the money into his personal bank accounts via small increments. Those ill-gotten gains were used to pay for personal expenses, such as home improvements, automobiles, motorcycles, a pool, credit card bills and personal loans.
Prosecutors say the scheme was able to be carried out by Brown exploiting his position as coordinator of the independent truck drivers hired during times of high volume. He was responsible for scheduling pickups and deliveries, known as hauls, and writing checks to the drivers. The scheme involved creating phony truck hauls and then fake invoices for payments owed to drivers who purportedly made the hauls. Those checks would instead be made out to himself.
The ploy went undetected until early 2020 when an independent truck driver received notice from the IRS about unpaid taxes. An investigation revealed that the driver had not received the compensation in question because Brown had written the checks to himself.
“Antwoin Brown gained the trust of his employer and then he abused that trust for years by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from him,” said Pablo Quinones, chief of OSFFCP. “Our prosecution of Brown should send a message that anyone who embezzles money from their New Jersey employer will be found and prosecuted.”
Under the terms of Brown’s plea agreement, the state is recommending that he be sentenced to four years in state prison and be required to pay restitution to his former employer. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2023.
“The guilty plea we secured in this case makes it clear that we will not allow this kind of criminal greed to go unpunished in New Jersey,” said Platkin. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute cases like this to protect businesses from criminal schemes perpetrated by disloyal employees.”