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Judge: Woman accused of stealing money from Ossineke business will head toward trial

ALPENA — Accused of stealing a quarter of a million dollars from the store owned by her brother-in-law, Gena Carstens, of Spruce, will head toward trial, Judge Thomas LaCross decided in Alpena’s 88th District Court on Wednesday.

In a court hearing continued from Tuesday, a witness said Carstens gave herself two raises and diverted money from the cash register over eight years, ultimately stealing enough to put the building supply store where she worked out of business.

A certified public accountant who analyzed the financial records of Ossineke Building Supply in Ossineke resumed testimony begun on Tuesday, when she said more than $200,000 in sales and cash drawer withdrawals went missing between 2010 and 2018, when the store closed.

Carstens was in charge of the store’s money during those years, according to testimony. The discrepancies were found after store owners noticed money was missing when looking through records after the store was sold.

On Wednesday, CPA Cynthia Scott said a fraud investigation of the store’s financial records showed raises for Carstens of $2 per hour in 2012 and 2013.

Store owners did not authorize those raises, according to Annette Carstens, co-owner of the store who testified on Tuesday.

The unauthorized raises accumulated to total $35,300 in excess payroll expenses, Scott said. She also testified that her review turned up suspicious invoices exceeding $16,000 involving a business owned by Gena Carsens’ husband.

Defense attorney Dave Funk clarified through cross examination that Scott could not prove who took the money that didn’t make it from the cash register into the bank account.

LaCross said Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski provided more than enough evidence to bind Gena Carsens over to Circuit Court. Carstens remains free on bond and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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