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Windsor hardware store employee suspected of embezzling $348,000

An employee of Garrett Hardware described feelings of “disappointment” following the arrest Thursday of the home improvement fixture's longtime office manager on charges of grand theft, possession of stolen property and money laundering.

The arrest of Glynis Susan Lewis, 44, of Santa Rosa, followed a six-month investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, Sgt. Michael Raasch said in a news release. Lewis is suspected of embezzling $348,000 from Garrett between 2006 and late 2012, officials said.

Garrett Hardware has been in business for more than a century, the past 30 years as Ace Hardware in Healdsburg. The Windsor store has been open 19 years. Many of both stores' 74 employees have been with the company long enough to know many customers by name.

The suspected embezzlement, investigation and arrest — along with what sheriff's officials described as a letter admitting guilt from Lewis — have shattered the friendly, trusting atmosphere at the tight-knit, family-run store, one of Lewis' former colleagues said.

“It was just a huge disappointment,” said Kerry Finnie, Garrett's marketing manager. “We were blindsided.”

The investigation followed owners' discovery in October of accounting irregularities, sheriff's officials said. Suspicion fell on Lewis, who had been with the company for more than a decade and worked in an office next to Finnie in Windsor, the marketing manager and sheriff's officials said.

“It was a complete shock to everybody here,” Finnie said.

Lewis was confronted and eventually resigned last year, leaving a letter of apology that admitted to the theft, which mostly involved taking from daily cash deposits, sheriff's officials said.

Finnie said it wasn't until the six-month investigation by the Sheriff's Office was completed that the full extent of the loss was uncovered. The sum rocked the company, she said.

“It wasn't crippling,” Finnie said. “But it was substantial. It has definitely forced us to cut back, affecting employee salaries, raises and plans we had for expanding some programs and renovations.”

Garrett is privately owned by Carole Mascherini and her son, Rod Matteri, and doesn't release its annual income or operating expenses. Finnie said the company held a meeting Thursday night to inform the employees of Lewis' arrest.

“No rumors, no gossip, it is what it is and we want to put this whole thing behind us,” she said, adding she hoped the revelation would help the company move on.

“Today was a good day,” she said. “A new beginning, a chance to get past this, finally.”

Lewis is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or elizabeth.cosin@pressdemocrat.com.

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