Greeley woman charged with stealing $250K from Ace Hardware employer
GREELEY — A Greeley woman was formally charged Thursday on suspicion of stealing more than $250,000 from her employer, Offen Ace Hardware.
Kristi Marie Chairez, 32, faces one count of theft of $100,000 to $1 million, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison. She appears for an advisement hearing at 9 a.m. Jan. 17 in Weld District Court.
The charge stems from an investigation that began April 9 when Chris Ruth went to the Greeley Police Department to speak with fraud specialist Christy Hardwick about a possible embezzlement at Offen Ace Hardware, 1722 9th St., which she owns with her husband, Bill. Ruth told police she and Bill planned to retire soon and groomed Chairez, a trusted employee, to take over the business.
Chairez graduated from Aims Community College in 2013 with a degree in accounting. Ruth told police they helped pay for Chairez’s education.
After she graduated, Chairez was promoted to account manager. They turned over the day-to-day operations to Chairez on Oct. 1, 2013. There were discussions she may someday purchase the business from the Ruths.
However, more than four years later, on April 2, the Ruths were alerted by their bank that the hardware store accounts were significantly overdrawn. They began to investigate and noticed a number of examples of suspicious account activity.
Bill Ruth confronted Chairez, who said she had documentation to back up all the account activity. The Ruths gave her time to gather the records, but instead Chairez and her husband, Adam, who also worked at the hardware store, stole the records, along with a trailer load of tools, appliances and other equipment. The theft was caught on a surveillance camera, according to the affidavit for Chairez’s arrest.
The Ruths then began assessing the damage, learning they’d been charged $15,000 for services from Adam Chairez’s construction company. There also was almost $6,000 in stolen property including everything from the store’s coffee maker to a Craftsman riding lawnmower.
All told, Chairez stole more than $258,000 from the Ruths through property, cash taken from the registers, loans and mysterious deposits, as well as payments to Adam and Kristi’s credit card companies, according to court records. During the same time, Kristi and Adam earned together $78,403 per year for a total salary of $359,086 over the four years.
Kristi Chairez turned herself into law enforcement Nov. 13 and was subsequently booked into the Weld County Jail. She is out on a personal recognizance bond, according to jail records.
There is no record of Adam Chairez being arrested for his alleged involvement in the theft.