Crime

Detectives say Florida Keys office manager almost doubled her salary, upped her health insurance and bought concert, airline tickets on the company’s dime

The former office manager of an Islamorada lumber yard was arrested Monday on grand theft charges, accused of stealing almost $15,000 by giving herself an unauthorized raise, upping her health insurance without permission, paying her rent with company funds and buying items like airline and rock concert tickets using points from her employer’s corporate credit card.

Alice Sparks, 48, was released from jail after posting a $15,000 bond at 12:30 p.m. Monday, an hour and a half after being booked at the Plantation Key courthouse on three grand theft counts. She could not be reached for comment.

According to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ian Barnett’s arrest report, between September 2015 and September 2016, Sparks increased her weekly salary from $1,153.85 to $2,140.05 without authorization from either the general manager or the owners of Forest Tek Lumber in Islamorada.

Forest Tek owners could not immediately be reached for comment, but they fired her in September. On the arrest report, Barnett lists Sparks’ current job as office manager for another newspaper company.

On three occasions, according to Barnett’s report, Sparks paid her monthly housing rent of between $902 and $977 with money from a Forest Tek business account.

From July 2015 to August 2016, Sparks, according to the arrest report, used points from the company’s American Express Gold Rewards program to pay for, among other items: A $262 Delta airlines ticket from Miami to New York on July 14, 2015; a $133.80 Rick Springfield concert ticket in August 2015; a $139 George Thorogood concert ticket in October 2015; another Miami-to-New York airline ticket for $204.20 in August 2016; and tickets totaling $940 to see the death metal band Misery in January 2016.

Barnett reports that in January 2016, Sparks also changed her status on her company health insurance from “employee” to “executive,” which caused Forest Tek to overpay $6,524.52.

The company’s general manager, Chuck Strong, told his bosses in September 2016 that he suspected “possible employee fraud,” according to Barnett.

“Sparks did not have authorization to change her salary,” the detective wrote.

On Sept. 6, 2016, Strong and co-owner Allan Wood asked Sparks about her increase in pay.

“Upon confrontation, Sparks became defensive and claimed she had sent several emails advising she wanted to be put on an hourly rate of pay,” Barnett wrote. “Sparks indicated she did not receive a reply email so she assumed it was OK for her to make the payroll change herself.”

She then offered to pay the money back by having her bosses deduct $200 from her paychecks every week, according to Barnett. But Strong and the company’s other owner, Bruce McClenithan, didn’t go for it.

“McClenithan and Strong refused to accept the repayment plan and fired Sparks,” Barnett wrote.

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