A jury found a Minnesota woman guilty of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from both a Denny's franchisee and a local construction company — money she then spent on things like jewelry and a down payment for a home.
Kimberly Peterson-Janovec, of Kenyon, was found guilty on Feb. 18 of 24 federal counts including wire fraud, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and improper tax filings.
Authorities initially charged her in May of 2021 with 14 counts, alleging she stole more than $350,000 as part of her yearslong embezzlement scheme. But in a follow-up superseding indictment, authorities detailed new allegations involving another victim, upping the charges to include 24 counts.
In total, Peterson-Janovec embezzled more than $700,000 from April 2014 through October of 2021, the charges state. She never reported any of the extra income on her taxes, either, according to the charges.
She then spent that illicitly obtained money on her "lifestyle and hobbies," including jewelry, concert tickets and apparel. She also used $40,500 of it on a down payment for a home.
So how did Peterson-Janovec's scheme work? Here's what the charges said:
It started while she was director of operations for MI5, Inc., a franchisee with eight Denny's in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There, she oversaw payroll, cash deposits, marketing, advertising, vendor relationships and vendor billing, with little oversight.
Starting in April 2014 and lasting through July 2019, she took to generating and submitting knowingly false requests for vendor payments, then sending that money instead to herself. That included bogus requests involving work she said was done by one of two companies for the Denny's franchises, but that was never actually completed.
Peterson-Janovec went to great lengths to make these requests look legitimate. She falsified records, created email accounts and sent emails in which she impersonated purported employees of those companies.
There were also times she manipulated payroll to give herself "unauthorized compensation," and more than once, when an employee left, had payments to them instead diverted to her own personal accounts.
MI5 uncovered pieces of her deceit in July 2019 and fired her. (However, she kept sending emails from purported vendors requesting fraudulent outstanding payments until February 2020.)
In March of 2020 she got a job with a Rochester home remodeling and construction company, first as a bookkeeper than as a general manager — lying about her work history in the process. (She claimed at one point that she worked for Home Depot at a time she was actually in prison.)
The roles gave her "near unfettered access" to bank accounts, bookkeeping, payroll and payments to both vendors and contractors, and she replicated the embezzlement scheme she'd used at Denny's — diverting fake vendor payments to her own personal accounts. She would use the names of vendors the company had worked with before, but with slight changes that would go unnoticed.
The jury received the case at 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 18. By 2:06 p.m., they'd found Peterson-Janovec guilty on all counts, according to court records.
Sentencing is set for June 22.
The Department of Justice says she was convicted in 1998 on federal fraud charges after being accused of embezzling more than $950,000 from another former employer.
“Over the course of several years, Ms. Peterson-Janovec deliberately abused her professional position to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from her employers," said Acting U.S. Attorney Charles J. Kovats in a statement. "With this guilty verdict, Ms. Peterson-Janovec has been held accountable for her actions. I applaud the prosecutors and investigators for skillfully unraveling this years-long fraud scheme and achieving a successful outcome."