“Family-owned businesses and other small or local interests can be irreparably devastated by embezzlement on this scale from their own trusted employees,” Nessel said in a statement.
Dealers across the country continue to be victims of employee embezzlement, including two recent cases in Michigan. A former Betten Baker Chevrolet-Buick of Cadillac employee was arrested in April after prosecutors alleged he embezzled more than $68,000 from the northern Michigan dealership. The previous month, in the southeast Michigan town of Dundee, a 43-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $200,000 from Williams Brothers Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, according to the Dundee Police Department.
The State of Michigan said it believes Root embezzled the money between 2016 and 2019, using the cash for gambling. It was when LaFontaine was purchasing Glenn Buege Buick-GMC Lansing that Root confessed to taking more than $250,000 from the dealership to cover her gambling losses. Root, who did not claim the extra money on her taxes, was charged with four counts of embezzlement and four counts of filing a false tax return.
The attorney general worked with the Michigan Department of Treasury and Michigan State Police in the investigation. Root pled guilty in April.
The LaFontaine Automotive Group, of Highland, Mich., renamed the store LaFontaine Buick-GMC Lansing in 2019. LaFontaine sold 24,750 new retail vehicles in 2023 and ranks 25th on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups. Root’s embezzlement did not affect the new owners.
Said LaFontaine spokesperson Max Muncey: “We have no involvement or any impact on LaFontaine Automotive Group as a result of her charges or sentencing.”