Boogie’s sues its accountants
The parent company of Boogie’s Diner in Aspen is suing a Maryland accounting firm for negligence after a Boogie’s employee embezzled at least $1.7 million from the business.Pep’s of Aspen, Inc., the company owned by Leonard Weinglass, which operates Boogie’s Diner, is suing the accounting firm of Alan E. Berkowitz & Associates for professional negligence/malpractice and breach of fiduciary duties.The suit, filed in Pitkin County Court Wednesday, claims former bookkeeper and general manager Linda May Fratis “was able to carry out her embezzlement activities without detection as a direct result of negligence by Berkowitz & Associates.” Fratis pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to embezzling more than $1.7 million from the diner and clothing store.Pep’s is suing for all financial losses and expenses which have been incurred as a result of the embezzlement, the suit states, including the sum taken by Fratis.And Weinglass asserts that Fratis took at least $4 million during her tenure at Boogie’s from 1987 to 1997.According to the lawsuit, Berkowitz, the principal shareholder of Berkowitz & Associates, served as the independent certified public accountant for Weinglass for 30 years. And beginning in or about 1987, Berkowitz & Associates was hired as the independent accountant for Pep’s. Until mid-1998, the firm was the sole accountant for Pep’s – encompassing the entire period of Fratis’ employment, according to the lawsuit.The suit further claims that in 1998, when Pep’s officials began to suspect embezzlement, Berkowitz was questioned as to the manner in which his firm had performed its duties. In response, Berkowitz made misrepresentations of fact in an apparent effort to cover up his company’s negligent acts, omissions and breaches of fiduciary duty, according to the lawsuit.”Berkowitz was supposed to be reviewing the books,” Weinglass told The Aspen Times. “He took care of my personal finances as well as my business [finances]. He was the only guy. It’s bad enough that we got embezzled, but what really hurt, is that when we found out, [Berkowitz] turned his back to us. He took no part in it. I had to hire other people to figure out what got embezzled, so it hurts.”I’m really angry about the situation,” Weinglass added. “I had no other choice but to sue this man.”Last month, Weinglass filed a civil lawsuit against Fratis and her husband, Thomas Handley, in an attempt to recover the money she has admitted stealing from Boogie’s.Fratis is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge J.E. DeVilbiss on March 1 in 9th Judicial District Court.
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