Moment Factory accuses ex-employee of fraud

Montreal flagship Moment Factory has just filed a complaint with the police against an ex-employee who allegedly stole more than a million dollars from the company and its staff, learned The Press.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Philippe Teisceira-Lessard
The Press

Georgia Tzanetakos, an employee from 2015 to April 2022, manipulated the company’s payroll system to direct money to bank accounts she controlled, Moment Factory alleges. The company relies on a report by chartered accountants.

“She was part of the family. That’s what hurts, ”said Éric Fournier, one of the big bosses of the multimedia box, in an interview. “She was the one who did all the payroll for the employees in the Montreal office. »

The fraud would amount to “a little more than a million dollars over seven years”. Just over 250 employees were reportedly affected.

Last May, Tzanetakos was sentenced to two years in house arrest for defrauding her previous employer, the Clair de lune chain of stores, out of $750,000. The 62-year-old Lavalloise had worked there from 2008 to 2014.

It was by reading the media coverage of this conviction that Moment Factory got a clue. Mme Tzanetakos had just resigned from her position as a payroll technician a few days earlier.

“We did 1 + 1 = 2. She had been with us for 7 years,” said Mr. Fournier. “Starting in May, we set up an investigation unit and a forensic analysis of [la firme] KPMG found fraud at Moment Factory. »

The situation does not jeopardize the financial health of the company, especially since it was insured. Moment Factory has gained international recognition in the field of creating immersive multimedia environments.

The Press tried to reach Mme Tzanetakos via the lawyer who represented her, Mre Richard Tawil. She didn’t call back.

She enjoyed her lifestyle

Mme Tzanetakos would have taken advantage of changes in status, departures on parental leave or transfers abroad of Moment Factory employees to “very subtly” tamper with the system for his benefit, again according to Mr. Fournier. “It was at extremely difficult times for both employer and employee to detect. »

We’re talking about 300 instances [de fraude alléguée] out of 50,000 transactions. She was extremely sophisticated in her approach. I think she was doing things knowing that the control mechanisms couldn’t see it.

Éric Fournier, one of the big bosses of Moment Factory

These allegations are unmistakably similar to the behavior for which she was criminally convicted. According to justice, it targeted part-time employees or former employees of Clair de lune in order to assign them fictitious hours worked, then to appropriate the resulting remuneration.

In court, Tzanetakos said she started defrauding her employer to pay off a debt, then continued because she liked her new lifestyle. “As it had no consequences, it continued,” summed up Judge Karine Giguère of the Court of Quebec.

Mme Giguère showed leniency towards the fraudster: the Crown demanded three years in prison. The judge justified herself in particular by pointing out that Tzanetakos had a new employer for several years and no issues had arisen there.

The company “would have liked to have known it before”

Moment Factory learned from the media that its ex-payroll manager was a fraudster, but Tzanetakos was criminally charged as early as February 2020. And the police investigation that led to her accusation had been completed four years before.

Éric Fournier “would have liked to know that before” that his payroll manager was under criminal fraud charges. But “the system protected the person’s presumption of innocence. I have to respect that,” he added.

In the meantime, he concentrates on the elements on which he can act. ” [On se focalise sur] employees, he said. Obviously, there are many people who have been affected. We want to communicate with these people so that they understand that we are going to take care of them, because it can become worrying. » All staff have been notified. Moment Factory also promises to answer the questions of its worried former employees and not to wait for the end of the legal process to pay the sums due to possible cheated employees.

He also wants to send a message to other employers: “It’s important that we be on the lookout. We see a lot of things going by, but this one surprised me with its level of subtlety and sophistication. »

The article is in French

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