Seattle Bookkeeper Indicted for Swindling More Than $200K From Bike Company

Feb 8, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  

Bicycle Retailer reports that a Seattle bookkeeper was indicted for nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of destruction of evidence after allegedly embezzling more than $200,000 from a Seattle-area bike company.

Prosecutors said the bookkeeper, Joan C. Trower, 50, forged checks from the company’s accounting software to herself and people she knew, among other schemes. The fake checks totaled $188,000. The indictment also said she transferred at least $26,000 to a fake accounting firm she created. All in all, the indictment said the cost to the company was between $200,000 and $300,000, which she used in part to gamble at local casinos.

The indictment does not specify which bike company is involved, only that it is “a private company that manufactures and sells high-end mountain bikes and related accessories.”

Trower worked for the company on contract from 2015 until her embezzlement was discovered in 2018, according to the indictment. She was arrested Feb. 5 and released on bond with a set of conditions, including a prohibition against gambling.

We have reached out to all the major Washington State bike companies for comment. Kona and Transition have both said it isn’t them. Evil has declined to comment.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Posted In:
Industry News

Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
745 articles

  • 392 4
 This story is sure to have a big Following soon. I am Wreckoning there will be some sort of financial Offering back to the company as the legal pursuit presses on. I sure hope that woman gets a hold of herself and finds her true Calling in life. If I were in her position I would be Blackout Drunk at those casinos.
  • 75 1
 They will probably call in the DELTA Force.
  • 87 0
 @JDFF: Ah yes! Dave’s Extraordinary Legalized Tactical Assassins. Surely they will join the scene.
  • 35 1
 Let’s not get our Chamois into a Haggar so soon...
  • 68 0
 I’d like to see a new bike model named after the the event. Maybe a downhill bike finally. The Judgement?
  • 129 0
 @Altron5000: The Sentencing
  • 2 0
 I am Wreckoning that only a Fraction of this is true
  • 2 0
  • 19 1
 At least we now know why their bikes are so damn expensive.
  • 7 0
 This makes me about as mad as an Angry Dolphin
  • 1 0
 @Jimmy0: With the judge slamming his Boomstick.
  • 1 1
 It cannot be them. They spend all of their money on advertising.
  • 17 0
On page three of the indictment it says she forged the signature of the company’s COO, initials J.M.
Evil’s COO has the initials J.M.
  • 3 0
 @kylext: Well done, detective. The puns have been justified.
  • 1 0
 @Altron5000: The Insurance Claims Adjustor.
  • 4 0
 @kylext: Your custom model will be called The Digging.
  • 3 0
Oh that’s a good one! I only recently joined Pinkbike because I was looking to buy my first full suspension bike I did end up buying an Evil Offering frame.
  • 2 0
 @ATXZJ: Quick internet sleuth. Definitely Evil - page 3, line 13 lists J.M. at the impacted company's COO. Zoom Info lists JM as their COO. Ok. I should probably get back to work!!
  • 1 0
 @CovertSD: from linked in,“Jason Moeschler COO at Evil Bikes.”
  • 108 1
 There's always the nice middle-aged bookkeeper lady who's been working there for like 10 years, brings cookies to the office every Friday and has pics of her grandkids and cats on her desk. And meanwhile, she's robbing you blind and blowing it all on blackjack and coke.
  • 31 0
 Hey someone's gotta blow all my money on blackjack and coke, and whoever's bringing cookies for everyone deserves to a lot more than I do.
  • 19 0
 but that’s MY stapler...
  • 3 0
 @Gmang: careful with fires man!
  • 4 0
 To be fair to book keepers, my MIL being one with a client who makes the entire bike industry look like the poors, very few of them are shady swindlers. The problem is a lack of accountability. You always need to two people to check eachother's work but not know it.
  • 4 0
 @PHeller: separate bookeeper from the banking duties is a starting point
  • 4 0
 @shredddr: Or make Gladys finally take that two-week vacation in Hawaii she's been talking about for years so you can have someone else looking at the books. This really is how most of these embezzlement cases are discovered.
  • 6 1
 @geephlow: Gladys eh? Exit 27?
  • 2 0
 @shredddr: You saw what I did there...
  • 2 1
 @geephlow: oh hell yes I did. now I need to figure out who you are... is that trail that well known? were you a builder?
  • 1 0
 @shredddr: this is the #1 most basic financial control. Any company not doing at least this is asking to be defrauded.
  • 71 0
 The new $10,000 aluminum/deore build...The Recouping
  • 2 0
 Too funny!
  • 3 0
 This deserves way more credit
  • 1 0
 Yes - well done, this should be at the top....
  • 60 2
 That Transition from the casino to jail gonna be rough.
  • 12 0
 She will need to be careful around the bailiffs patrol.
  • 13 0
 Gonna be left eatin PBJ's in the jail cell
  • 9 1
 From black collars to orange jumpsuits.
  • 4 0
 she best strap on them Spurs and Giddiup on out of town.
  • 2 0
  • 2 4
 It certainly is Kona be rough.
  • 1 0
 @Eatsdirt: needs more credit
  • 49 1
 I don’t know. It Raleigh could be anyone...
  • 7 4
  • 3 0
 @paulhaysom: better than overrated....
  • 45 1
 That's an Evil scam right there, folks.
  • 33 1
 In the criminal justice system, bicycle based offenses are considered especially heinous. In the Seattle city area, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit of cycling related felonies. These are their stories. "Dom Domm"
  • 20 0
 Dang that sounds so familiar to a machine shop I worked at in Bellingham, bookkeeper did the same thing writing checks to herself and she was actually taking money from my paycheck as well. She also gambled it away at boss pressed charges but I don't know what happened to her.
  • 11 0
 Its a sad fact that addiction is a present factor in most cases of defalcation, and even worse is that these type of frauds disproportionately impact small businesses that often struggle to stay afloat to begin with.
  • 22 0
 @jaytdubs: I learned a new word today!
  • 15 0
 It seems to be becoming more common.

There's not really a casino culture in the UK. Gambling addiction has traditionally been a male issue and takes the form of betting in the local bookies.

Over the last few years there does appear to be an increase in news stories such as these involving women addicted to online gambling.

Not sure how popular it is in the rest of the world, but online bingo (along with chance games and slots) has gotten huge here. The advertising is hugely cynical and aimed at women specifically. They market the websites as a 'community' where you can meet, chat and play games with your friends (or make lots of new friends in it). The advertising is broadcast on programmes or at times where a large demographic of stay-at-home or part-time-employed mums will likely be watching, trying to capitalise on lonliness or boredom.

The result is the same as above. Become addicted to gambling. Get into debt. Steal money (acounting fraud is a common theme, but borrowing from friends and family on false pretences happens a lot too) to try and clear debt but also feeding continuing gambling.

It's a very sad thing to see. It's easy to villify the culprits. But it's hard not to have some sympathy when the gambling industry is being so blatantly exploitative.

I also take issue with online casinos/bookies that are mainly aimed at a male audience, especially sports-related advertising that advertises betting as 'part of the action' and creates a psychological link between watching sport and betting to make you feel 'more involved in the game'.

I should say that all of the above is based on my own observations and from reading news articles, i have no real insight or experience on the topic (other than feeling quite strongly about it).

As a last thought... If you see an advert for an online casino that asks "Do you want to play poker with real professional poker players?"; the correct answer is no, you do not. Those are the last people you want to play against. If it's your money you're playing with, you want to play against complete idiots.
  • 3 0
 My best mate growing up developed a gambling addiction about 15 years ago, and still hooked in a bad way. It sounds like it's just as hard to kick as a heroin or meth habit. He says 70% of the people in the local casinos are familiar faces to him and are in the same addicted trap he is. Pretty nuts.
  • 4 0
 @JustinVP: Same here. Ruined my friend's marriage. I'm not Into gambling at all but get so annoyed with the amount of advertising rammed down our throats - it's everywhere and so easily available online. Gambling addicts don't stand a chance.
  • 2 0
 @JustinVP: I'm very sorry to hear that. From what i've heard, the addiction indeed incredibly difficult to kick. Given how big the casino industry is on your side of the pond, i imagine it holds a lot of political influence which helps them resist legislation.

I believe there are some ongoing reviews of the gambling industry here. Betting is quite common here but i don't think there's a strong enough culture that would result in major public pushback on any tightening of regulations. It's the online casinos and gaming that concern me the most. Particularly the way it's advertised - like the example in my comment above where they blatantly and purposely target time-poor mums that miss their social circle.

I mean alcohol adverts are mostly nonsense - good looking trendy people doing stuff that nobody ever really does. But imagine if an alcohol brand blatantly and puposely targeted people they considered predisposed to addiction problems!
  • 1 0
 de·fal·cate | dəˈfalkāt, dəˈfôlkāt |
verb [with object] formal
embezzle (funds with which one has been entrusted): the officials were charged with defalcating government money.
  • 25 4
 Dear God please let it be WTB because their tire names will be absolute pun gold
  • 18 0
 WTB is NorCal, not Seattle.
  • 2 0
 @nosmallplans: And Transition and Kona are Bellingham, not Seattle. Probably Evil, but could be Ti-cycles.
  • 1 0
 @Poulsbojohnny: Evil is also in Bellingham now. Diamondback is still here Seattle (Kent) though.
  • 22 2
 This is what happens when you keep changing the standards.
  • 3 0
  • 16 0
 The EVIL that men do lives on and on . . .
  • 2 0
 Maiden ????
  • 3 0
 @noplacelikeloam: serves me right for even using an emoji lol, just showed ???

Love maiden. Right on bro.
  • 1 0
 7th son of 7th son
  • 15 1
 Bad puns are coming
  • 24 0
 They're here already and more are following
  • 13 0
 Are you Offering an alternative?
  • 12 0
 She was sick of doing her TPS reports, someone took her stapler and made her work in the basement for free...
  • 2 0
 My immediate thought upon reading the headline...
  • 4 0
 the two Bobs really made her jump to conclusions
  • 2 0
 @cuban-b: Never trust two Bob's!!
  • 1 0
 @curendero: everyone knows that! It’s a moot point!
  • 12 0
 She didn't use to work for Sick Bicycles did she?
  • 7 1
 Geesh , what's going on in the bike industry . First we heard about the theft of some prized Specialized bikes , then their offices burn down and now a massive embezzlement of another company . What's next , we order a new bike and it doesn't get delivered for a year or so . Oh wait ,,,,, ,,,, yeah literally wait .
  • 6 0
 When I bought my Insurgent there was a bogus charge the next day. I thought it was just sloppy paperwork cleanup.
  • 7 0
 Well I guess she will be having to give all her Diamondsback.
  • 4 0
 One of my business professors from college in WA did this as well. Half a million from the company he was bookkeeping for. Not surprising for anyone who knew the guy and took his classes. And I knew the business owner.
  • 2 0
 You didn’t happen to go to a religiously affiliated college in Eastern WA did you?

Because I did, and a professor in the business department stole over $800k from a local dentist that he was doing accounting for on the side.
  • 1 0
 @atourgates: Dana T. Macroeconomics.
  • 3 0
 I came here for the Puns and y'all did not disappoint. My Tuesday is better now. Can Pinkbike pun masters please head over to BikePortland and over run the comments there with puns.
  • 1 0
 I Wrecken you can embezle the puns here and use em yourself.
  • 2 0
 That’s unfortunate. At least it’s not a huge amount, and hopefully the funds are still recoverable

My dads accountant stole $5m from his business over the course of a few years. My mom conducted an audit, and the guy had already moved the money to the Virgin Islands. He did 8 years in prison, his family is living in the Islands, and he’s now dead.
  • 6 1
 She will have her wreckoning soon enough.
  • 4 1
 Is her name Joan or Jake? either way, what a snake! Oh she Kona pay the price..
  • 1 0
 It’s not Kona.

Reading is FUNdamental.
  • 1 0
 The HR manager for an old company I worked for stole over a mil by keeping terminated employees on the payroll and setting up direct deposits to bank accounts she controlled in the name of the employees.
  • 4 0
 I guess she kept more than just the books...
  • 3 0
 Lock her up and Trower way the key.
  • 5 2
 She’s EVIL but they deserve it for using super boost
  • 1 0
 This goes a little way to explaining why EVIL does not support the bikes they make.....My dogbones and dead Undead frame must have been part of the missing fund fiasco.
  • 2 0
 Can't wait to hear the Verdict from the Judge.
  • 1 0
 for this Convict
  • 3 1
 Ive always said bike thieves are evil people.
  • 1 0
 Never trust out of control gamblers handing money. Talking from experience.
  • 2 0
 Definitely a Stinky case, let's wait for the justice to Process.
  • 2 0
 There is a special place in Hell for EVIL people like this!
  • 1 0
 That swindling bookkeeper who bamboozled me out of my dough is going to the hoosegow for a month of sundays!
  • 3 1
 Looks like a Session in Court
  • 1 0
 A good old example of why segregation of duties is so important.
  • 1 0
 Sounds like something I heard from a laguna beach pedal brand years ago.
  • 1 0
 Sounds like a long process
  • 1 0
 Scrub a dub trower.... don't drop the soap in the shower
  • 2 0
 Diamond Back?
  • 1 0
 She's why Diamondback kneecapped the corporate discount I'm calling it.
  • 2 0
 Rad Power Bikes?
  • 1 0
 Probably doesnt hurt ro have an outside audit done randomly.
  • 1 0
 You all are missing the RAD opportunity to poke fun at ebikes.
  • 1 0
 The man on the HighTower will be watching her now.
  • 1 1
 You expect accountants to be Saints? In Japan maybe.
  • 1 0
 She’s Evil.
  • 1 0
 I'm not surprised
  • 1 1
 He was tryin’ to carry diamonds around on his back like a gangster.
  • 2 3
 This is why my book keeper owns stock in my business. If you gonna rob me you gonna have to rob yourself too!
  • 8 1
 So equity, possible dividends plus a little cream off the top ?

That's a smart book keeper.
  • 2 1
 @Groov-E: She's my business partner and our CFO. You're far less likely to steal when you have skin in the game. You point out all the positive sides of business ownership but not the risk involved.
  • 3 0
 @Struggleteam: You're right, but still a good idea to have your books audited by an external party... Not all mishaps are intentional. :-)
  • 3 0
 @Lankycrank: Oh we have a third party audit once per month as well. I've seen this story so many times in so many industries. Always seem to start small and then before you know it........
  • 3 6
 So some lady cooks the books and everybody involved has a meltdown, but the industry gets away with charging 10+ grand for a bike with xt/slx and nobody bats an eye. Who is the real criminals here?
  • 8 0
 The lady cooking the books.
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