Former employee charged with stealing at least $58,000 from Haines tour operator

While Haines police investigated a theft of tens of thousands of dollars from Alaska Mountain Guides, the suspect and his wife were stopping in Las Vegas for a concert, seeing a Broadway show in New York and planning a cruise to the Caribbean, according to charging documents.

Former Alaska Mountain Guides employee Dionicio Charles, 43, was charged in November with first-degree theft, scheme to defraud and misapplication of property. Police say he used the access that came with his position as finance director to wire at least $30,000 from the company to his and his wife’s bank accounts and to write himself more than $28,000 in checks from Alaska Mountain Guides, according to a criminal complaint filed by Haines Borough police officer Maxwell Jusi.

Police obtained an arrest warrant Nov. 4 but Charles had not been arrested as of Dec. 7, Haines police Sgt. Josh Dryden said. Charles could be extradited from anywhere in the U.S.

Alaska Mountain Guides co-owner Sean Gaffney notified police Oct. 6 about “several discrepancies” in the company’s bank accounts and “several unauthorized deposits being made” into Charles’ account, according to charging documents.

Six unauthorized transfers were made to Charles and his wife in late September ranging from $3,000 to $7,000 each, the criminal complaint says. Allegedly Gaffney and his staff initially thought there had been an accounting error but then discovered two deposits into the account of Charles’ wife, who had never been employed by the company.

Charles was hired by Alaska Mountain Guides, Haines’ largest tour operator, in early August. He left town in mid-September, telling his colleagues he needed medical treatment in Seattle, police said. But, according to the charging documents, the suspect’s brother-in-law told police that Charles and his wife visited family in Texas, traveled to Las Vegas and New York City, and intended to board a cruise ship in Miami for the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

“We don’t have to worry about money,” Charles’ wife told her brother, according to police, who interviewed the brother. She said her husband had received a sign-on bonus from the tour operator and could work remotely during the off-season. But company co-owner Eli Fierer told police the company didn’t give Charles a sign-on bonus, and the finance director position is based year-round in Haines.

While Charles was supposedly recovering from surgery on Oct. 6, he told Fierer his access to the company’s bank account had been locked. He allegedly said he needed to recover access to pay a contractor about $35,000, according to the complaint. Fierer determined the payment request was spam and initially thought the company had been hacked, but later realized Charles might have made up the request. According to police, an email chain Charles cited between a tour company manager and the “contractor” was likely fabricated.

Fierer also told police that when Charles was first hired, he used a company credit card for about $4,500 in personal purchases — a matter that was “immediately addressed” by Fierer and Gaffney, who apparently told him he had to request approval to access company accounts, according to the complaint.

A series of mid-October posts on the public Facebook page of someone with the same name as Charles’ wife documents a cruise vacation from Miami to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic.

Facebook posts indicate the couple went to the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway on Oct. 13, the same day a falsely signed $7,500 check was deposited into the wife’s account, according to the criminal complaint.

“Look how beautiful the water is!” the person with the wife’s name posted Oct. 22 on Facebook accompanying photos of the open ocean — a day after Charles attempted to cash a $30,000 check, according to charging documents.

Dryden said police believe Charles is not in Alaska but declined to comment further on his whereabouts. His bail has been set at $100,000.


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