Town Talk Diner doomed by $540,000 embezzlement
The Town Talk Diner closed abruptly this January, depressing fans of the popular eatery at 27th and East Lake Street.
Local media also mourned the restaurant's closing, which was attributed to "declining sales" and the "cold winter" by its owners. But another major factor contributed to the eatery's demise: a $540,000 embezzlement scheme by a longtime accountant of the parent company's.
Ava Marie Hamilton, 51, has been indicted on nine counts of theft by swindle for stealing over $540,000 from Theros Restaurant Group, which also owns Rudolph's Ribs and the St. Clair Broiler. Hamilton had worked at Theros restaurants for most of her adult life: from 1978 to 1987, she was a manager at Rudolph's; she left the company for a few years, then returned in 1992 as a bookkeeper.
She held that job until last summer, when the managing partner, Charlie Theros, discovered that she'd been embezzling money, according to criminal charges filed in Hennepin County this June.
Charlie Theros was searching through filing cabinets last June when he noticed that there was no file for the company's Capital One credit card. He contacted Capital One and asked for the last five transactions, which is when he discovered that the company was being robbed.
Here's how the embezzlement scheme worked: Hamilton withdrew cash from the company credit card, then used forged checks from company accounts to pay it off. She'd then begin charging again, according to the criminal complaint.
Theros confronted Hamilton, who confessed to stealing $40,000 and promised to pay it back. Theros called the police instead.
Minneapolis Sergeant Christopher Abbas investigated the case and determined that Hamilton had swindled a bit more than $40,000--more like $547,807 from December 2007 to June 2010, according to the official complaint.
Hamilton was indicted this June. Her next court date is October 13.
City Pages has left numerous messages for Hamilton, who has not responded.
But we did speak with Charlie Theros about the case. We were curious how the company has been able to survive after bleeding out so much money.
"It's been a struggle. It's been a fight. It's hurt us. It's set us way back," Theros said. "It was one of the causes of the demise of the Town Talk Diner."
But he also said he believes the company will be okay "in due time."
We also asked how Hamilton was able to swindle so much money without being noticed. Theros responded that Hamilton was trusted as a longtime employee.
"The accountants never got it," Theros adds.
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