On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, PCSO detectives arrested 43-year-old James Michael Guest of Lakeland, charging him with conspiracy to commit grand theft between $20,000 – $100,000 (F3), scheming to defraud over $50,000 (F1), and fraudulent use of a credit card (F3), in an organized scheme to defraud and steal tens of thousands of dollars from his previous employer, Magnify (currently PenFed) Credit Union.
According to his affidavit, Guest was employed as the IT Manager at Magnify Credit Union beginning in 2013. He was also responsible for building maintenance and vehicle repossession processes, and was issued a credit union credit card to make business-related purchases.
During Guest’s employment, the credit union officials observed several discrepancies among receipts submitted by Guest – specifically, purchases of Home Depot gift cards. When the CEO confronted Guest with the unauthorized charges, he offered for Guest to pay back the money, but Guest declined. Guest was then fired and a full audit of the company credit card that was issued to him was ordered.
When the audit revealed fraudulent expenses in excess of $7,000, the credit union contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to begin an investigation. During the investigation, Magnify was purchased by PenFed.
During the audit, it was determined Guest misappropriated a total amount of $88,181.69 for gift cards and/or personal items during 2018 and 2019:
- Home Depot receipts totaling $40,170.82 in various gift card purchases.
- Walmart receipts totaling $12,769.98 in various gift cards purchases.
- Guest was allowed to use his Magnify Credit Union credit card on his personal Amazon.com account, only for bank business. The itemized purchase list indicated total of $35,240.89 in unauthorized purchases.
The gift cards and purchases were for Hotels.com, iTunes, Google, movies and entertainment, restaurants such as Starbucks and Applebee’s, Uber, gas cards, Visa or MasterCard credit cards.
“While this credit union was helping people with their financial matters, their employee was taking advantage of the company credit card and helping himself to almost $90,000. Cheating and stealing is wrong on so many levels.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff
Guest’s criminal history includes two previous arrests in 2006 for battery domestic violence, and a 2014 arrest for battery domestic violence, all misdemeanors. He was booked into the Polk County Jail.