A former executive at Saint John Energy, who is facing criminal charges in Utah for claiming personal expenses as business expenses for a utility he worked for there, was also previously charged in Saint John, CBC News has learned.
Anthony Furness was charged with fraud in 2006, Sgt. Jay Henderson, of the Saint John Police Force, confirmed on Tuesday.
But before his provincial court hearing, Furness fled to the United States, said Henderson.
A warrant was issued for Furness's arrest, but his troubled history with Saint John Energy received little publicity and Furness managed to land another senior position at another utility — Heber Light & Power in Utah.
"So what exactly happened here? The public should be demanding an explanation," said Jeffrey Kelley, a former employee of Saint John Energy, New Brunswick's second largest power utility, a $100 million-a-year business.
Kelley remembers Furness as a big boss who was suddenly fired after unknown financial irregularities were discovered in the mid-2000s.
"The email that went around at the time is that he was dismissed," said Kelley. "I believe the exact wording at the time was 'no longer employed by the power commission.'"
None of the allegations in Saint John have been proven in court.
Furness is now facing a second-degree felony charge of theft by deception in Utah. He is accused of misrepresenting $51,365.54 in personal expenses as business expenses for Heber Light & Power between February 2010 and May 2013.
Kelley contends Furness, who is currently out on bail in the U.S., should be extradited to face the charges in Saint John.
"If he's found guilty there, he should be held accountable there. And if he's found guilty here, he should be held accountable here," he said.
Alleged misuse of company credit card
Furness was the chief financial officer for Heber Light & Power, an electric utility serving 9,600 customers in the Heber Valley of Utah, from 2006 until 2013.
Furness was raised in Saint John and rose to become the vice-president of finance at Saint John Energy, the city-owned utility. Former executives and former board members with Saint John Energy confirm Furness was terminated with cause in 2005.
A probable cause document filed by the Utah Attorney General's office with the fourth judicial district court in Utah alleges Furness used a company credit card to pay for personal business expenses over several years.
The allegations in the probable cause document have not been proven in court.
The credit card was to be used for business purposes, but special agent Aaron Jones of the attorney general's office believes Furness concealed personal charges on the credit card by submitting expense account statements claiming the charges were business related.
Jones determined that between February 2010 and May 2013, Furness charged $107,207.79 to his company credit card. Of that amount, the investigator determined $38,141.66 were legitimate business expenses, $51,356.54 were personal expenses and $17,709.59 were expenses of an undetermined nature.
"The defendant deceptively misrepresented expense reports indicating the personal expenses were business related expenses," concludes the probable causes statement.
The document also outlines some personal expenses Furness is alleged to have claimed from Heber Light & Power:
- Travel expenses of $14,481.80, including transactions for Furness's wife Lynn's air fare, fuel, hotel accommodations and meals for travel that does not coincide with a business meeting or conference.
- Phone expenses of $9,637.87.
- Grocery expenses of $9,179.40, including purchase of produce, peanut butter, cookies, cake, batteries, soda, meat and a number of $50 and $100 gift cards, totalling $6,785.10. "A few of these cards did go to employees but most are unaccounted for and it is assumed that Furness used them for personal expenses."
- Personal night/weekend/holiday expenses of $6,975.29, including transactions for Photoshop Element 5, fuel, cellphone memory card, meals, boots, gift cards and prescriptions.
- Electronics expenses of $2,5417.12 that have no clear business purpose and no written comments from Furness.
- Gasoline expenses of $2,311.35 despite Furness receiving a monthly vehicle allowance that was to cover his fuel expenses.
- Meal expenses of $2,042.99 for single meals and multiple meals purchases with no support as to their business purpose or no receipt to itemize what was purchased.
- Coffee/McDonald's expenses of $43.61 where only one coffee or one meal was purchased or there was no receipt to itemize what was purchased.
- Miscellaneous expenses of $4,137.11, including transactions for golf balls, HEPA filter, bolt and stud sensor, Hickory Farms, TJ Maxx or there was no receipt provided.
Furness is currently free on a $15,000 cash bond. His next court appearance is set for July 23 for a scheduling conference.
Probable cause statement: Utah vs. Furness