Man accused of stealing corporate funds

Man accused of stealing corporate funds

In 2012, the Hometown and Outlet Stores were spun off into a new company. Sears Hometown Stores were formerly part of Sears Holdings that owned Sears and Kmart chains before Sears went into bankruptcy. When transactions are handled properly, they would be entered in the “corporate cash register” and the receipts kept in a “holding account” until they could be transferred to Sears.

According to information on the Sears Hometown Store website, an “owner” such as Hightower pays for store upkeep and a number of other costs, including utilities and staff salaries. He appeared in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges against him. He is free on $25,000 bond. Mountain Home attorney Ben Burnett represents Hightower. Hightower was ordered to reappear July 1 and Burnett said he felt the case could be concluded by that date.

The merchandise in the stores belongs to the corporate entity and store “owners” are paid a commission when a sale is made. Forty-year-old Jerrell Ray Hightower of Franklin was arrested in late May. He is charged with theft of property, forgery and falsifying business records.

During the investigation, missing items of merchandise were traced back to purchasers. The purchasers had handwritten receipts or canceled checks to show they had paid for their items. Auditors alleged that more than $21,000 in merchandise was gone with no paperwork to show it had been sold.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Hightower is alleged to have failed to enter sales into the corporate cash register. He then diverted the money that should have gone to Sears into his personal accounts. A sale would set off a chain of events — the merchandise would be automatically removed from inventory, an alert provided to corporate that the item had been sold, and a printed receipt would be produced for the purchaser.

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