A former forklift mechanic for In-N-Out Burger and the owner of a company that supplies parts for the machines pleaded guilty Thursday to cheating the fast-food chain out of about $340,000.
Kevin Anthony Koerner of Lakewood, 45, who worked as the forklift mechanic, was sentenced to a year in jail and placed on three years of formal probation.
Louie Garcia of Downey, 48, was sentenced to 270 days in jail and placed on three years of formal probation.
The two accepted a plea bargain from Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones. Part of the plea deal hinged on the two paying about $340,000 in restitution, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.
They each pleaded guilty to a count of grand theft and 34 counts of forgery and admitted sentencing-enhancement allegations of a loss exceeding $65,000 and aggravated white-collar crime exceeding $100,000.
They could have faced up to 26 years and eight months in prison had they been convicted at trial, prosecutors said when charges were filed.
Koerner would order parts for the machines as part of his duties. Over time, he developed a relationship with Garcia, the owner of Industrial Material Handling Express, and they cooked up a scheme involving fraudulent invoices for items Koerner wanted for personal use and ordering other parts at prices inflated by 75 percent, Labreche said.
The loss last year was estimated at $158,000, Labreche said. But the restitution ordered reflected added accounting expenses and interest, Labreche said.
The scheme, which began in March 2005 and continued through July 2016, was uncovered by one of Garcia’s employees, who alerted In-N-Out Burger, the prosecutor said.