Ex-Grant Thornton partner charged with stealing $4 mln

NEW YORK Wed Feb 6, 2013 2:14pm EST

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NEW YORK Feb 6 (Reuters) - A former partner at Grant Thornton was arrested on Wednesday on charges that he stole nearly $4 million in client payments meant for the global accounting firm.

Craig Haber, 59, diverted the money to his own bank accounts from 2004 to 2012, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

"Fraud is always serious, but it is especially alarming when, as alleged here, it is committed by professionals who are supposed to be gatekeepers responsible for ensuring financial rectitude," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

The complaint did not identify Grant Thornton by name. But a spokesman for Grant Thornton confirmed its identity, adding that it has been cooperating in the investigation.

The accounting firm, which had $4.2 billion in revenues globally at the end of its September fiscal year, terminated him in July, the complaint said.

"Grant Thornton disclosed this former partner's conduct to the authorities promptly after discovering possible financial improprieties, which resulted in his separation from the firm," Tim Blair, a spokesman for Grant, said in an email.

A lawyer for Haber, Michael Bachner, declined comment.

Haber worked at the accounting firm since 1990, making partner in 1993, the complaint said. He worked out of its New York offices, primarily providing tax advisory services related to investment partnerships, the document said.

Beginning in 2004, Haber on multiple occasions told clients to mail checks directly to his office, rather than routing them through its Chicago headquarters as normal, the complaint said.

Haber then deposited the checks into a bank account with a name similar to his firm's, the charging documents said. He then transferred the money into two personal bank accounts, the complaint said.

The money was used to pay for, among other things, the mortgage on his apartment, a gym membership, child support and a brokerage account, the complaint said.

The case is United States v. Haber, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 13-0329. (Reporting By Nate Raymond and Dena Aubin in New York; editing by Andrew Hay)

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