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|More from Curt Guyette|
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Rick Stover is not the kind of criminal you will ever see featured on America’s Most Wanted, or even an episode of Cops. He doesn’t rob by shoving a gun in someone’s face. He’s more cunning than that. Stover is a white-collar crook who used doctored documents and a glib tongue to cheat the unsuspecting. And, unlike the executives at headline-making companies such as Enron, he’s never looted millions of dollars. By those standards he’s strictly a small-time operator whose scams at times don’t even garner the attention of law enforcement, let alone the media.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t wreak havoc with people’s lives.
Ron Bargman is proof of that.
A large window in the upstairs offices of Robar Industries overlooks the graveyard of a once-thriving manufacturing plant in Warren. The machines are all idle now. Instead of turning out screws and fasteners for the auto industry, some of the equipment awaits repossession. The rest is going to be sold as scrap metal. The people who used to work here, more than 50 of them, are gone, sent looking for new jobs when Robar closed its doors nearly two years ago.
Ron Bargman, the owner, is an earnest, soft-spoken 50-year-old. The former salesman began his manufacturing career in the basement of his home, on a drill press borrowed from his father while he still held down a day job. With no formal training as a machinist or an engineer, he taught himself the trade, learning from books as he went, growing the business gradually. By the late 1990s, he owned two adjacent buildings containing about 18,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. With the economy booming, he was ready to explore new product lines and boost production. But for that to happen Bargman needed help, and so he went looking for a plant manager to oversee production while he concentrated on other aspects of a business that had a million-dollar annual payroll.
That’s when he hired Rick Stover, a Harrison Township resident, who applied for the job after seeing a want ad in a local paper.
Bargman says Stover eventually cripple his business and force Bargman into a crash course on the way the Macomb County justice system deals with white-collar criminals. Which, according to Bargman, is not very agressively. Another business that fell victim to Stover after Bargman had alerted authorities is ample evidence of that, Bargman says.
Although he attributes to Stover a large role in Robar’s failure, when Bargman is now asked what disgusts him more — his former employee or the criminal justice system — Bargman doesn’t hesitate. “The system,” he says. “Definitely the system.”
When Bargman hired Stover in May 1998, he made a cursory attempt to verify Stover’s impressive résumé, but didn’t get far. The three most recent employers, dating to 1980, had all gone out of business. That in itself isn’t unusual, explains Bargman. Businesses like his operate on small profit margins. A dip in the economy or a few bad deals can drive a company under.
What Bargman didn’t know is that Stover deleted from his résumé the names of companies where his departure had been less than amicable.
The résumé did state that the “finest personal professional references” would be furnished upon request. But Bargman didn’t make the request, in part because Stover handled himself so well during his two interviews at Robar.
“He’s really a good talker,” says Bargman. “He interviewed very well.”
Stover, 46, was hired at a salary of about $50,000 a year. He wasn’t on the job very long before he requested more responsibilities. Stover claimed he could help Robar expand by bringing in new business. Bargman agreed, and Stover began spending more and more time away from the plant making sales calls.
Stover also hit Bargman up for money. According to court documents, Stover came to him about three months after being hired, citing a family emergency. Stover asked to borrow $14,000. He signed a promissory note, putting up as collateral a 1968 Corvette he said he owned. Repayment was due within two weeks. Stover repaid $4,000. The car, which was actually in the name of his wife, was eventually sold, with the remaining $10,000 still owed.
In a deposition, Stover claimed that Bargman had told him the $10,000 would be forgiven to offset expenses and other money Stover said Robar owed him.
Bargman tells a different story, saying Stover offered a litany of excuses when pressed about the money. Asked why he didn’t fire Stover at that point, Bargman replies that in many respects Stover performed his job well, and appeared to be bringing in new business.
“I figured I probably would have given him that much as a bonus anyway,” says Bargman. “Also, he was the lead person on several projects, and if I let him go, I would be the one that would have to take up slack and I wasn’t physically able to do that.”
Before long, none of that mattered.
According to a report filed with the Warren Police Department in July 1999, Bargman alleged that he had discovered that Stover was defrauding him that April. According to the report, Bargman claimed to have confronted Stover about the fraud and theft.
Stover allegedly admitted to the theft, but offered an elaborate excuse. Although Stover’s name has been redacted, Bargman confirms his former employee is the subject of the allegations in the document.
“[Stover] told [Bargman] that he had problems with ‘The Mob’ due to the fact that he had broken up a crime ring and cost the organization thousands,” according to the report, which reflects Bargman’s statements to the investigator. “‘The Mob’ then approached [Stover] and told him that they would kill him if he did not replace their monetary losses. [Stover] then told [Bargman] that his wife was involved in a lawsuit and was expecting a large settlement. At that time he would pay back the money he had stolen. [Bargman] bought the story and [Stover] was allowed to continue operating.”
“I’m not really that gullible,” Bargman says now. “But there was a lot going on with me at that point. I was very ill. I wasn’t sleeping. I was taking a lot of medication. And I think all that affected my judgment.”
The final straw came in July, when Bargman ran a credit check on Stover and discovered that a company he’d directed a lot of Robar business toward had the same mailing address as one connected to Stover.
Testifying in court in January 2001, Bargman claimed JA Tool, which he had previously done no business with but which came “highly recommended by Rick,” had cost Robar thousands of dollars in losses.
He repeatedly tried to contact the company by phone, but only reached an answering machine. He also attempted to have Stover drive him to the company, but every time they were scheduled to visit the plant, a medical emergency involving Stover’s wife would arise, Bargman testified.
Finally, says Bargman, he ran the credit check. It was at that point, says Bargman, that the extent of Stover’s fraud became apparent.
“[Bargman] advised me that he has lost money to [Stover] to the point where he may lose his business,” the investigating police officer wrote.
Bargman couldn’t provide an exact amount, but, he told police, “it appears to be well over $100,000.”
In a deposition, Stover testified that his wife owned a company called J Tool that did business with Robar, and that Bargman was aware of the connection. (It is unclear whether J Tool and JA Tool are the same.)
Stover, says Bargman, was fired in July 1999.
Much of the fraud, he alleges, involved falsifying of purchase orders and invoices.
“He learned how our company worked, and saw how to take advantage of our system,” says Bargman. “I look back on it, I keep wondering how I could have allowed this to ever happen.”
As foolish as Bargman now feels, he can take some consolation in knowing that he’s far from alone.
“Embezzlement is the nation’s favorite financial crime,” reports the National White Collar Crime Center, a nonprofit based in Morgantown, W.Va. Employee theft results in estimated annual losses of up to $90 billion. “Small businesses are the most vulnerable to occupational fraud and abuse,” according to one report produced by the organization. “The average scheme in a small business causes $125,500 in losses. The average scheme in the largest companies costs $97,000.” Also, “The average fraud scheme lasted 18 months before it was detected.”
Detecting fraud is one thing, prosecuting those who commit it another.
“The problem is that there is such a high volume of crime in this country, it’s very hard for prosecutors to put very much time into these relatively minor cases,” says Roger Schmedlen, a private investigator who specializes in fraud issues. “With limited time, they need to go after violent crimes. Crimes where the dollar amounts are fairly low don’t get the same priority. And, frankly, I wouldn’t want to live someplace where that wasn’t the case.”
Schmedlen says he’s worked on cases involving millions of dollars and it was still difficult getting authorities to pursue them.
“There’s just not enough people in law enforcement to counter what’s out there,” he says.
After filing his police report, Bargman set about compiling documents to bolster his case. He says a “mountain of evidence” was gathered to present to Margaret DeMuynck, the attorney who heads the consumer fraud division of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.
Assisting Bargman was Joe Strasser, a Toledo lawyer he’d used for business dealings in Ohio. Outraged by Stover’s alleged actions, Strasser volunteered his help without charge.
“Joe is determined to see this guy in jail,” explains Bargman. “He just wants to see justice done, because he knows how badly this guy hurt me.”
Bargman emphasizes that Stover’s actions were not the sole reason Robar shut down. He blames a convergence of events, including the loss of an important contract and a downturn in the economy. Yet he notes that it wasn’t just the money he claims Stover stole that caused problems for the business. A tremendous amount of energy has gone into digging up evidence, and working with authorities in an attempt to get Stover prosecuted and convicted.
Part of his frustration is directed at DeMuynck, whom Bargman says initially balked at pressing charges, delaying prosecution for months.
“She said it was too complicated of a case because it involved so many documents, and that it would be too difficult for a jury to understand what was going on,” Bargman says.
She advised Bargman to file a civil lawsuit. He did that, but also continued to press for Stover’s criminal prosecution.
The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office has 60 attorneys on its staff. Until recently, when a second person was added, DeMuynck was the fraud unit’s sole prosecutor. The office’s five investigators spend about half their time working for the unit, according to William Harding, the office’s chief of operations.
DeMuynck tells Metro Times that the Stover case has been complicated. For one thing, she says, Stover’s attorney insisted his client didn’t commit fraud, but that the whole issue was the result of a business dispute. Adding to the complication was a fledgling partnership that included Stover and Bargman in a new business to build and market rotisserie barbecues. That business was being formed around the time Bargman accused Stover of fraud.
Bargman says he eventually told the other partners he wouldn’t participate in any venture that included Stover, and that the deal fell apart.
Attempts by Metro Times to interview Stover for this story were unsuccessful. But his side of the issue, at least in part, is found in a countersuit he filed in response to Bargman’s civil action.
Stover claimed that it was Bargman who owed him money — more than $100,000, according to court documents. Included in that figure were business expenses, such as travel costs and cellular telephone bills that Bargman refused to reimburse, alleged Stover. He claimed Robar refused to return tools and equipment Stover valued at $70,000. There were also expenses incurred during the startup of the barbecue business that Bargman owed him.
During his deposition, Stover promised to produce witnesses who would “testify to the wrongdoings of Mr. Ron Bargman.”
Asked what those wrongdoings were, Stover replied, “Falsifying statements to me on behalf of working for Robar on promises that was made to me personally, promises that were made to vendors for payment under good faith doing business. Basically, all the wrongdoings that he has been involved with.”
Stover also promised to produce specific evidence, including his tax filings, expense receipts and other relevant records to substantiate his claims. It appears that those records, which the court eventually ordered him to produce, were never made available.
“It was all a smokescreen,” says Bargman of Stover’s claims.
To Strasser, this case was very simple. In his opinion, there was a clear paper trail of transactions linking Stover to JA Tool. There were also bank records for JA Tool that showed multiple cash withdrawals by the Stovers that could be tied directly to deposits from Robar, and there was no indication in the bank records that JA Tool was buying any raw materials needed to conduct manufacturing operations. Those records were in the prosecutor’s possession but apparently went unexamined until Bargman and Strasser, after repeated requests, were finally allowed to look through them.
Bargman alleges one fraudulent transaction worked this way: Stover created a fake purchase order from a real company supposedly seeking to buy $31,000 worth of parts. Stover then approached Bargman, saying that JA Tool could produce the parts for $20,000. When the parts were supposedly ready, Stover volunteered to deliver them personally. There were, however, never really any parts to deliver. Robar paid JA Tool, and billed the company that supposedly ordered the parts. When the bill went unpaid, it was Stover’s responsibility to collect. He produced a string of excuses explaining why the company hadn’t paid, dragging the matter out for months.
It is not the only thing he proved to be adept at dragging out.
Warren police completed their investigation and presented DeMuynck with their evidence in November 1999. With Bargman repeatedly expressing his desire to see Stover prosecuted, DeMuynck finally decided to press embezzlement charges in June 2000, accusing him of committing five felonies. His wife, Susan Stover, was charged with one count of conspiracy, also a felony. The Stovers were arrested and released on bail.
The case was assigned to 37th District Court Judge Dawnn M. Gruenburg to determine whether there was cause to bind the Stovers over for a trial in circuit court. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 2000. Gruenburg’s first action was to grant a continuance of nearly two months.
On Aug. 29 Bargman received a subpoena and appeared in court only to find the hearing had again been postponed at the last minute because of a medical emergency. One of the Stovers — it was never made clear which one — claimed to have been hospitalized. The Stovers supplied the court with a document verifying their claim.
“Your honor,” wrote Bargman in a letter to the judge the following week, “on numerous occasions to avoid meetings that may have resulted in the earlier discovery of the conduct for which he has been charged, Mr. Stover came to me with tears in his eyes describing current illnesses and/ or hospitalizations in his family. When I would ask Mr. Stover for some sort of details about these illnesses (what hospital was the family member in? etc.) he would always avoid providing any such information. And I cannot help but note that the document filed in your Court Monday afternoon is similarly vague. …
“It’s now over thirteen months since Mr. Stover’s conduct was discovered and reported to the Warren Police Department, and yet, through delay after delay, he has not been held accountable for his actions in any way. I can state that Mr. Stover’s cleverness and capacity for deception enabled him to improperly manipulate the controls and procedures at Robar. In my opinion, he is now trying to do the same in the criminal justice system.”
Four months later, he again wrote Gruenburg:
“Your honor, it is now nearly seven months since the Stovers were arrested. In a case involving the alleged embezzlement of a large amount of money, in my opinion such a lengthy delay is particularly damaging and unfair to me, the victim of that theft. In addition, my ability to operate Robar as an ongoing business has been seriously impaired, and I am still trying to recover from the financial and emotional damage caused by Mr. Stover’s conduct. …
“I have again been subpoenaed to attend and will gladly take time out of my day to do so, for what is now about the fifth or sixth time, I certainly hope and expect that this time the Preliminary Exam goes forward and the Stovers are finally required to begin to respond to the charges.”
Susan Stover again failed to appear, claiming a medical emergency. Gruenburg, however, ordered proceedings to begin against Rick Stover, and Bargman finally took the stand.
At the end of the day, Gruenburg warned Mark Kistner, attorney for the Stovers, that she wanted Susan Stover in court for the next hearing, even if she had to be wheeled into court.
Gruenburg added: “And we’re going to try and finish this while all of us are still alive. Right? ... Sometime in this century? I shouldn’t say that. We just started one. Right? I was hoping.”
At least six more continuances followed. Finally, without ever producing any witnesses or evidence to dispute the charges against his clients, the Stovers’ attorney stipulated to allowing the case to proceed to the next level.
“He didn’t even bother to cross-examine me,” says Bargman.
In October 2001 — after languishing in district court for 15 months — the case moved to the courtroom of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Servitto Jr.
Attorney Strasser describes the number of delays approved by Gruenburg “as extraordinarily frustrating,” saying the case was handled as if it involved traffic violations rather than multiple felony embezzlement charges.
In an interview with Metro Times, Gruenburg acknowledges Bargman’s frustration and expresses sympathy for his plight. “But legally,” she says, “I don’t know what I could have done. Sometimes, when somebody wants to play the system, they can.”
Bargman suggests that bail could have been revoked early on to ensure the Stovers’ appearance.
Gruenburg says that with limited jail space needed to contain violent offenders, crimes involving only the loss of money seldom rate that sort of priority.
“I feel sorry for the victims of these crimes,” she explains, “but where there’s not physical harm involved, and the only issue is money, those cases always end up being last.”
While the case snailed its way through court, Rick Stover found a new victim when he went to work managing another manufacturing operation.
Scam after scam
“So, you want to talk about Slick Rick,” says Bill McCormick with a laugh that has a bit of edge to it.
McCormick owns Expan Inc., a New Baltimore company that makes perforated metal which is primarily used by the auto industry for speaker grilles and other components.
He hired Rick Stover in May 2000, nearly a year after Bargman reported Stover’s alleged fraud at Robar. The résumé Stover submitted contained no mention of his time there. Like Bargman, McCormick didn’t do much checking to verify Stover’s employment history.
He hired Stover as his plant manager at a salary of $65,000 per year.
“Whether it’s because I’m naive, or just because I’m honest, I don’t expect a guy to come in here and lie to me,” explains McCormick.
He describes Stover as a “smiling guy, a real good talker,” with a penchant for gold neck chains and flashy vehicles.
He’s also a “very, very capable” manager, says McCormick. “He’s smart, and he did a good job. He has a good knowledge of the tool game.”
After about a year, though, McCormick began to suspect Stover was good at other games as well.
McCormick alleges that in the spring of 2001 he discovered Stover was using a front company to defraud Expan. At first, says McCormick, Stover simply used a company called SPM as a pass-through entity that was boosting the cost of product produced for Expan by legitimate manufacturers.
“That’s unethical,” says McCormick, “but it’s not illegal.”
Then, McCormick alleges, Stover got greedy and began using SMP to bill Expan for product that was never delivered.
It is the same sort of fraud that allegedly occurred at Robar.
In a company such as his, an employee in a management position can go for a while hiding transactions that rip off $5,000 or $10,000 at a time.
But eventually McCormick caught on.
McCormick laughs about the day he got in the car with Stover and told him to drive him to SMP.
“The sweat started running down his head,” recalls McCormick, smiling.
He said he’d already done some checking, and knew that SMP was nothing more than a rented office.
“I had him pretty good,” McCormick says.
But he offered Stover an out. Even though he calculated that Stover had stolen more than $40,000, McCormick says he gave him a month to come up with $25,000. If he did so, police wouldn’t be called.
Stover brought attorney Kistner in to negotiate, provoking McCormick to drop the hammer. On May 14, 2001, he filed a complaint with the New Baltimore Police Department.
“Mr. Stover has fraudulently provided us with invoice, which he approved and Epan Inc. paid,” alleged McCormick. “He was obviously running a scam through SMP, a company we believe doesn’t exist.”
Assistant Prosecutor DeMuynck says Expan’s charges were fortuitous, in that they were more clear-cut than those involving Robar. The two cases were joined, and the prosecution proceeded, albeit slowly.
McCormick says after charges involving his company were brought, the case “stalled at least seven or eight times.” Stover, he adds, “is an absolute magician at playing the system.”
On that point, DeMuynck agrees.
“He’s a real con man,” she says. “He thinks he can get away with anything.”
By the late summer of 2002 Stover’s day of reckoning was finally approaching. As a result of a plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to drop charges involving Robar in exchange for Stover pleading guilty to one count of embezzlement from Expan. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or three times the amount embezzled.
Charges against Susan Stover would be dismissed.
The dropping of charges related to Stover’s alleged actions at Robar “felt like a punch in the gut,” says Bargman. “It was a devastating blow.”
The deal also involved Stover agreeing to let a mediator decide how much he would have to repay Expan and Robar. Also as part of the deal, the civil suit involving Bargman and the countersuit brought by Stover would both be dropped.
When Stover failed to appear for meetings with the probation department regarding the settlement agreement, Circuit Court Judge Servitto had finally had enough. In July, to ensure Stover’s cooperation, he put him in jail for three weeks.
He would be sentenced on Aug. 30.
Bargman and Strasser, meanwhile, had found other alleged victims. Two were willing to write letters to Judge Servitto.
“I would like to inform you that Rick Stover has also fraudulently taken approximately $10,500 from our company, Arin, Inc.,” wrote Carol Gee-Romanoski, president of the Roseville company.
“I was unsuccessful in having the Prosecuting Attorney take interest in this case. I would hope in the court’s sentencing consideration be taken that this man, Rick Stover, has affected financially and emotionally myself and my business. In my opinion he has swindled and has been successfully evading justice and has not reimbursed Arin Inc.
“I did want you to be aware of the extent of this man’s conduct against my company because I realize that in Macomb County not all crimes are actually presented to the courts.”
Dave Anderson, human resources director of P-K Tool & Manufacturing in Chicago, also wrote.
“I am sending this letter in the hopes that it will provide additional background information that will lead to a sentence preventing Mr. Stover from victimizing others for some time.
“In late 1997, our firm hired Mr. Stover to manage a plant in Richmond, Kentucky. After working about 2 weeks, he attempted to defraud us of over $15,000.”
In a second letter, Anderson explained that the company was successful in stopping Stover from obtaining the full $15,000, but alleged that he “was successful” in obtaining a “significant” portion of that amount.
P-K also sought to have charges pressed, meeting with both federal authorities and police from at least two departments in Michigan. “[W]e were advised that the amounts involved were insufficient to pursue criminal prosecution,” wrote Anderson.
Although previous convictions are taken into consideration during sentencing, DeMuynck would not disclose Stover’s criminal history to either Bargman or Metro Times, saying she is prohibited from doing so.
Metro Times found at least one previous felony conviction. In 1997, he and his wife, Susan, pleaded guilty to one count of changing a vehicle identification number. Each was sentenced to one year probation for the felony.
According to William Harding, an assistant prosecutor at the time who handled the case, the Stovers reported their Oldsmobile was stolen, and collected from the insurance company. They then claimed to have found the person who stole the car, and retrieved it. Instead of notifying the insurance company, which technically owned the vehicle at that point, they bought a junk Oldsmobile and put its identification number on the car they reported stolen. Harding said it would have been possible to prosecute for insurance fraud, but it was a more difficult case to prove and carried the same penalty as the charge they pleaded guilty to.
On Aug. 30, 2002, more than three years after Bargman filed his initial police report, Servitto sentenced Rick Stover to five years’ probation. Two months later, he ordered Stover to repay Expan $30,000 and Robar $50,000. Payments were to be spread out over the probation period.
DeMuynck says the sentence was appropriate. For one thing, it fell within sentencing guidelines established by the state Legislature. Within the past few years, the penalties for white-collar crimes have been reduced, she says, to free up prison space for violent criminals.
Faced with limited resources, a priority has to be given to putting murderers, rapists, and drug dealers behind bars, she contends. In addition, sentences such as the one handed Stover make it possible for victims to be compensated for their losses.
Last November, Bargman sent yet another letter to the court.
“I still recall the day of your sentencing when Mr. Stover had the audacity to stand before you and even then say that he did not commit the offenses to which he was pleading guilty,” he wrote Servitto. “I also vividly recall your outrage at those remarks and your comments that you wanted to immediately incarcerate Mr. Stover, but were not going to do so because you wanted to see the victims of Mr. Stover’s crimes have the highest likelihood of receiving restitution. …
“Mr. Stover has yet to pay even one penny of the scheduled restitution. In my opinion, this is yet another example of the countless instances where Mr. Stover has literally laughed in the face of the Macomb County justice system.”
Given a choice between receiving restitution and Stover being sent to prison, Bargman urged the judge to put Stover behind bars.
On Jan. 9, 2003, Stover and attorney Kistner met with DeMuynck for a “creditor’s exam” to explain why he hadn’t paid any restitution to Expan or Robar.
Bargman wanted to attend but was prohibited. He was, however, given an audio tape of the meeting, which he provided to Metro Times.
During the meeting, Stover described a life of extreme hardship.
According to medical records in the court file, Stover, since at least December 2001, had had severe back problems, the result of an auto accident.
Because of therapy, the condition had improved considerably by the summer of 2002. However, he claimed, the three weeks he spent in jail that August caused a relapse, and he had been unable to work since then. Likewise, he said, his wife had been unable to work because of ongoing foot problems related to an accident.
The couple had no assets and no income, he claimed. They’d been relying on the kindness of friends and family for a place to stay.
Both had applied for Social Security disability benefits, he said.
“Right at the present time, my wife and I are at the lowest we’ve ever been,” he told DeMuynck. “It is very frightening because I don’t know where the next dollar is coming from.”
Upon receiving the tape, Bargman and Strasser did what the Prosecutor’s Office did not. They checked to see if Stover was telling the truth.
The findings were chronicled in yet another letter, this one sent to DeMuynck on April 22.
“Based upon my opinion concerning Mr. Stover’s credibility and the lack of investigative resources in Macomb County, I did some investigating on my own and it seems that this testimony could not be further from the truth,” wrote Bargman.
Of particular interest to them were his claims about his inability to work. They noted that, according to Michigan law, if Stover knew he would be unable to make the restitution payments he agreed to, he was, in essence, defrauding the court.
Bargman suspects that Stover knows this, because during the exam he was careful to point out that he had interviewed with a company called Venture in Fraser.
“I had a first interview with them, and it looked like I would secure the job, which would have paid $68,000 a year,” Stover told DeMuynck. However, as a result of sleeping on the hard jail bedding, his back condition took a drastic turn for the worse, “deteriorating very quickly.”
Stover said his doctor indicated he could not work, and that, in any event, it would have been wrong for him to take the job without notifying Venture of his physical limitations.
Bargman provided DeMuynck with a letter from Venture’s director of human resources.
“We have no record of anyone named Rick Stover having applied for a job ...” Paula McIntyre wrote.
Stover also told DeMuynck that his only employment during the first nine months of 2002 was with a company in which he was a partner.
Bargman also obtained a letter from a company never mentioned by Stover during the exam. Kenneth Kraft, president of Matrix Tool in Fraser, wrote that Stover worked full time at his company for a year beginning in September 2001. Kraft mentioned that when applying for the job, Stover never disclosed that he had worked for either Robar or Expan. He also noted that Stover explained his three weeks in jail by saying he had been held in contempt of court for getting “overly vocal while talking to the judge.”
He continued to work at Matrix for a month following his release from jail, and was then terminated.
Kraft noted that, during that last month, Stover “never gave any indication whatsoever that his back was bothering him. … He lifted and moved tooling equipment in our shop on numerous occasions after he was released from jail and never said that he was having any difficulty doing so.” Kraft recalled Stover talking about playing “several rounds of golf during that period.”
Kraft described Stover’s income from Matrix as “significant.”
Wrote Bargman: “Thus, just by doing some minimal research and making several phone calls, I have been able to gather evidence that directly contradicts several of the most important elements of Mr. Stover’s sworn testimony. With his track record ... who knows what other of the many ‘facts’ Mr. Stover provided during that testimony might also be questionable.”
Asked why her office couldn’t have done the research Bargman had, DeMuynck — who handles 50 to 80 fraud cases a month — replies, “We don’t have people on staff to follow him [Stover] around. We just don’t have anybody to do that.”
On April 22, a hearing was scheduled before Judge Servitto regarding Stover’s failure to make restitution payments. A mailed notice was returned to the court.
Apparently Stover had moved without providing notice of his new address, a probation violation. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Often in such cases, the only way a person is picked up is when they are pulled over for a traffic violation and a routine record check is run. But in this case, says DeMuynck, a fugitive team has been assigned to arrest Stover. As of Monday, he had not been found.
But, according to Bargman, Stover had a meeting scheduled with his probation officer after Servitto ordered the bench warrant. But, because there was moving going on at the probation department, no one bothered to determine if Stover even showed up. Stover’s probation officer refused to talk about the case with Metro Times.
From start to finish, says DeMuynck, this has been “an extremely unusual case.”
Bill McCormick, the owner of Expan, isn’t waiting for the cops or courts to do their jobs. He’s hired a private investigator to find Stover.
“From the beginning, I knew that there’s no way this guy was going to pay restitution,” says McCormick. “He knew the system too well. But I wouldn’t have pursued this just for the money. Being in this kind of business is tough, and this guy has the capability to take good people and put them into bankruptcy.”
As for Ron Bargman, he’s out of the manufacturing business, probably for good. He’s started a new company, Zycon Global Services, which produces an online directory listing information about manufacturers, distributors and service companies. With a family to support, he has no choice but to keep finding a way to earn a living.
“All this took a toll psychologically,” he says. “And it took a toll physically. Overcoming it has been difficult.”
Shaking the sense that he let down people who depended on him has not been easy. He took a lot of pride in providing jobs for people. Jobs that no longer exist.
But he also can’t shake the sense that he too has been let down.
“People who are victimized,” he says, “should not have to work this hard to get justice.”
Curt Guyette is the news editor of Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.