Chamber updates members on embezzlement case
By Journal Staff
MARQUETTE — In light of recents events involving former Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Samantha LaJeunesse, the GINCC board of directors has released a statement to GINCC members.
The board addressed the recent events that led to a temporary closure of the chamber. Court records allege the offense occurred on Aug. 8. LaJeunesse was hired as GINCC director in June.
LaJeunesse was charged with three felonies on Nov. 15 in Marquette County District Court. The charges include one count of an agent or trustee embezzling $20,000 or more, one count of using computers to commit a crime, and one count of illegal sale or use of a financial transaction device or credit card, according to online court documents.
“At this time, we want to provide some additional details to the membership so that you may better understand the breach while limiting information that may impede legal efforts. What we can share is that the event involved the withdrawals of funds from the organization’s bank account used for operations. Following the withdrawals, action was taken by the GINCC leadership to review the issue,” GINCC Board of Directors said in the statement. “Given the loss of funds to cover operating expenses, the office was closed and staff was laid off. A complaint was filed with the Ishpeming Police Department, and a claim was filed with our insurance agency. At this time, the insurance claim has been accepted and we have received funds.”
In conducting a formal investigation, the Ishpeming Police Department identified LaJeunesse as a person of interest and made an arrest once probable cause was established, according to the GINCC Board of Director’s statement.
As a result of the findings in the investigation, LaJeunesse’s employment with the organization was terminated.
“At this time, the GINCC is unable to provide additional details in the case in an effort to support due process. We anticipate that additional details will continue to become public as the case is processed through the court system and any remaining evidence is recorded,” the board said. “Our ability to communicate these findings has been and remains limited for the protection and integrity of the case.”
No date has been set to reopen. GINCC leadership is working to outline the next steps focusing on “the future of the organization and the continuation of (the organization’s) mission.”
“We continue to seek to ensure that our community is a great place to live, work and explore,” the board said. “Updates regarding our operational status will be provided in the coming weeks as additional information is available.”
GINCC members are invited to utilize member benefit resources available to them through the Small Business Association of Michigan.