Former utility CEO charged with embezzling $500K for jewelry, iPads, pizza

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Donnis Mizelle, former CEO of Avon-based Hendricks Power Cooperative, was charged Tuesday with defrauding the electric utility of more than $500,000 over a six-year period to pay for personal perks such as jewelry, electronics and even home pizza delivery.

Mizelle, 55, has agreed to plead guilty to the federal fraud charge, the office of U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler announced on Tuesday.

“CEOs hold positions of special trust and authority, not only in the companies they serve but as leaders in society. We expect them to act with integrity,” Minkler said in a press release. “Exploiting that special trust for personal gain is an egregious crime, especially when those defrauded are friends and neighbors in a community that the CEO was hired to serve."

Mizelle allegedly siphoned funds from the company’s expense account for his own personal use on a routine basis, according to Minkler.

As CEO, Mizelle was permitted to seek reimbursement for legitimate business expenses. Since at least 2009, however, Mizelle submitted dozens of fraudulent expense reports that disguised personal expenses as business expenses, Minkler said.

For instance, on an April 2009 expense report, Mizelle claimed approximately $650 for business entertainment. According to federal officials, however, he actually bought a black sapphire bracelet and Mont Blanc pen from a local jewelry store for his own use.

On an October 2014 expense report, Mizelle claimed $1,250 for sponsoring a business-related dinner event. According to federal attorneys, Mizelle had actually purchased a Eurail train pass for a family vacation in Europe.  

His fraudulent claims allegedly resulted in reimbursement checks not only for personal vacations and jewelry, but also for iPhones and iPads, tickets to sporting events, clothing, meals, and even groceries.

No amount was too small. According to Minkler's office, in January 2012 Mizelle claimed $20 for a business lunch that actually went toward the purchase of a pizza delivery to his home.

Mizelle was CEO of Hendricks Power Cooperative from November 1999 to March 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile. His current occupation is listed as self-employed energy management and economic development consultant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Linder, who is prosecuting the case, said Mizelle has agree to plead guilty at a future court hearing.

Mizelle faces up to 20 years in prison, a substantial fine, and an order to pay restitution.

According to the Associated Press, Mizelle's home telephone number was disconnected and he could not be reached for comment.

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