Bookkeeper for company investigated by I-Team arrested for theft - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Bookkeeper for company investigated by I-Team arrested for theft

CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Lisa Forest, 48, of Woodlawn, turned herself in to Montgomery County authorities Tuesday morning after the Montgomery County grand jury returned an indictment last week charging her with a single count of theft over $60,000. She posted $10,000 bond and was released.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Forest was the bookkeeper for Griffey & Associations and the Clarksville Charitable Education Foundation.

According to the TBI, the foundation hired Griffey & Associates to manage rental property owned by the nonprofit. In 2012, the foundation discovered Griffey & Associates kept most of the rental proceeds, dating as far back as 2008, totaling $70,124.84.

Additionally, Griffey & Associates charged the nonprofit $21,139.42 for management services during the same time period.

The investigation, requested by the district attorney's office, showed Forest kept some of the nonprofit's proceeds for herself and used some of it to pay other company clients.

Soldiers told the Channel 4 I-Team they are owed tens of thousands of dollars from Griffey & Associates.

The former property management company in Clarksville is accused of taking the money of soldiers, veterans and military support workers while they were out of state or overseas.

Mike Griffey and Associated managed the properties for the soldiers and civilian military support workers and was supposed to transfer rent money into escrow accounts.

But when soldier Shaun Wild returned from serving in Afghanistan, he checked his bank account and saw none of the money he was owed had been deposited.

"Mr. Griffey owes me over $15,000," Wild said.

Veteran Andrew Toussaint realized he was owed roughly $10,000 after moving out of state and relying on Griffey to manage his home in Clarksville.

"If he's doing this to me, he must be doing this to a lot of other service members or veterans," Toussaint said.

And while working for the military in a war zone, Mary Kohler said she found out that Mike Griffey and Associated owed her substantial money only when her bank account was closed due to so many bounced checks.

"He wrote her a bad check every month for a year," said Noel Bagwell, Kohler's attorney.

The three are among those who have filed complaints with the state Department of Commerce and Insurance, saying Griffey's property management company wasn't depositing rent money into their accounts, sometimes for more than a year.

Why did it take so long for them to realize their money was missing?

In Wild's case, he was busy dodging bullets in Afghanistan.

"While we were deployed on the front lines of Afghanistan, he had been digging in our back pocket," Wild said.

Attorney Noel Bagwell represented Kohler in her attempt to get her money back. While Bagwell said Griffey later made good on all those bounced checks, Kohler is still owed nearly $10,000.

"He [Griffey] collected rent on her behalf and never paid it to her," Bagwell said. "Where did the money go?"

It's a question a lot of his former clients are asking.

The Channel 4 I-Team went in search of Griffey. His former office in Clarksville was empty and a sign outside read it is for rent, although there were still files on desks and keys on rings.

No one answered at Griffey's home and a sign outside read it is for sale.

Griffey's attorney told the Channel 4 I-Team his client declined our request for an interview.

Late Sunday, Laura-Michael (Griffey) Hudson, the daughter of Mike Griffey, sent the Channel 4 I-Team a statement, reading in part, "I do know the facts of this case and with full confidence can say that my father will be vindicated, and the real perpetrator will soon be revealed."

The state Department of Commerce and Insurance also wanted answers from Griffey, and after receiving so many complaints, set up a hearing.

Records show Griffey's attorney said his client could not attend due to medical conditions. After receiving the complaints, the state permanently revoked his license.

"He is no longer allowed to do any type of real estate practices or any brokerage in Tennessee for the rest of his life," said Kate Abernathy, spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce and Insurance.

A law firm representing Griffey sent out letters to some of his clients, offering to settle for smaller amounts.

The letter Wild received confirms he is owed more than $15,000, but that the company "does not currently have cash funds to pay the amount" and added "there are regrettable circumstances."

Wild was offered nearly $3,000.

Wild and Toussaint both said they refused to settle.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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