Everett Ziply manager charged with embezzling $270K

Between July 2020 and May 2023, Michael Lakus submitted 119 forged receipts, charges say. The company fired him.

Everett

EVERETT — A former manager at Ziply Fiber in Everett embezzled more than $271,000 from the company over the course of three years, according to charges filed this week in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Michael Lakus, 53, worked at Frontier Communications when the newly-formed Ziply Fiber took over his company in 2020. He stayed on at Ziply, working as network operations manager, out of the internet service provider’s Everett offices, according to the charges filed Wednesday.

Frontier had reportedly issued Lakus a company credit card, and Ziply reissued the credit card in May 2020.

Ziply’s credit card system relied on the honor system. If employees accidentally used the company card for personal expenses, they would have to label it as such, tick a box for personal purchases and upload documentation that they paid for the product out of their own pocket. This system allowed Lakus to embezzle from his employer without ticking off alarm bells for three years, according to the charges.

Lakus would mislabel his personal purchases as “Office Supplies,” while leaving the personal purchase box empty and submitting forged receipts, prosecutors allege.

“This resulted in Ziply Fiber being unaware they were personal purchases, treating them as business expenses, thus unwittingly paying for the Defendant’s personal expenses,” deputy prosecutor Ian Hopkins wrote in the charges.

Between July 2020 and May 2023, Lakus submitted 119 forged receipts, according to the charges. He used the company card for everything from flights and rental cars to Amazon and other online shopping to event tickets and jewelry.

In May 2023, Ziply management learned of the embezzlement, according to court documents. They confronted Lakus about the purchases. He reportedly couldn’t justify them, only saying, “I need help.”

Ziply immediately fired Lakus, the company said Friday. The company reported the allegations to Everett police.

In March of this year, detectives interviewed Lakus. He acknowledged making poor decisions and violating company policy, the charges say. He said he’d paid back $5,000 to $10,000. But asked to estimate how much he’d taken, he couldn’t give a specific number and only said it was more than $50,000. He also admitted to forging the receipts, according to court papers.

In a statement Friday, the company thanked Everett police “for their help with the investigation and we appreciate all their hard work.”

Prosecutors charged Lakus with eight counts of felony forgery and one count of aggravated first-degree theft.

Prosecutors didn’t object to Lakus remaining out of custody during court proceedings. Court papers list addresses for the defendant in Arlington and Everett. He is set to be arraigned July 23.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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