Suspected embezzler sued cinema before arrest |

Suspected embezzler sued cinema before arrest

EAGLE, Colo. – Nearly five weeks before he was arrested for embezzling money from an El Jebel cinema, Gabriel Matherly sued his former employers for defamation and wrongful termination, among other claims.

Filed Jan. 28 in Eagle County District Court, the lawsuit alleges that Matherly’s corporate superiors wrongfully accused him in February 2010 of pocketing theater funds, firing him the same day.

Brass at the theater chain – New York-based Bow Tie Cinemas – also tampered with bank records to further their case against Matherly, who was Movieland’s general manager at the time of his termination, the suit alleges.

The defendants – Movieworld Corp. and Bow Tie Cinemas, which operate the theater; and Bow Tie Chief Operating Officer Joe Masher and Operations Manager Ike Rivera – have yet to file a response to the complaint, an Eagle County Court official said. Masher and Rivera couldn’t be reached for immediate comment Wednesday.

The suit seeks at least $18,450 in lost salary and bonuses, along with exemplary damages for the defendants’ alleged “malice and willful and wanton misconduct under these circumstances …”

The suit goes on to say that news of Matherly’s Feb. 5, 2010 termination was relayed to Movieland employees and the Basalt Police Department, further sullying his image.

“[Matherly] suffered damages to his reputation in the small community of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley, which resulted in his inability to immediately secure other employment, despite the fact that [Matherly] was investigated by Basalt Police without any further action being taken by the Basalt Police,” the suit says.

In response to an e-mail Wednesday, Matherly’s attorney, Robert L. Tibbals Jr. of Centennial, said he did not anticipate that criminal charges would be filed against his client at the time of the suit’s filing.

But last week, on March 10, Matherly, 30, of Glenwood Springs, turned himself in to the Eagle County Jail after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the police department said. He was arrested for felony theft and released on $50,000 bond, according to authorities.

Also arrested was Perri Ann Mickles, 50, of Aspen, on March 3 by the Aspen Police Department. Authorities say Matherly and Mickles, who was the bookkeeper at Movieland, embezzled roughly $31,000 through missing and falsified bank deposits, rebate checks from an unauthorized ATM machine in the bank lobby, rebate checks from a Pepsi distributor and a “scam” involving movie coupons. The transgressions occurred between November 2008 and January 2010, police said.

The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office has yet to file charges in the case; both defendants are due in court April 29.

Matherly’s lawsuit, meanwhile, says that on Feb. 5, 2010, he was called to the upstairs office of Movieland and was confronted by Mickles and Rivera, who told him the theater’s cash balance was short $10,000.

“At no time did these Defendants present any documentation, including bank statement reconciliations to [Matherly], in support of their accusations. Defendant Rivera stated the cause for termination was disregard of company policies, stating that [if] company policy been followed, Defendant Rivera would be able to discover how funds were shorted.”

The suit, which demands a jury trial, is pending. It accuses the defendants of conversion, for not paying Matherly after he was fired; civilly conspiring to blame Matherly for the theater’s financial losses; wrongful termination and defamation.

Police, however, claim Mickles and Matherly worked together and set up a “maverick office” next to the Movieland building where officials found receipts, deposit slips and other incriminating evidence.

Matherly was interviewed by police on March 17, 2010, and denied he worked with Mickles to hide deposits, the arrest warrant says.

Matherly said other managers had access to deposits during his time with Movieland, which Bow Tie officials deny.

Bow Tie’s internal audit with the assistance of a forensic accounting firm determined that the total loss was allegedly $62,340.88, the police department said in a press release issued last week.

The police department said it felt it could tie Matherly to financial losses of $30,972.52 through documentation.

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