A former executive of a defunct Ascension Parish-based chain of Popeyes chicken restaurants pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to embezzling nearly $1 million.
William “Wil” Ros, 45, of Cortez, Florida, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and embezzlement of a bankruptcy estate in federal court in Baton Rouge, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said in a news release.
Ros bought a $225,000 Ford GT race car and upgraded his Florida home with the cash he stole from Fundamental Provisions LLC, a Gonzales-based company that once operated 30 Popeyes locations in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, according to facts outlined in the plea agreement, which Ros acknowledged were true as part of the deal.
Ros embezzled the money by ordering managers over Popeyes locations to pull cash from their stores and turn it directly over to him, either in person or in FedEx packages, the plea agreement says.
“Corporate executives who fleece their employers in order to finance their self-indulgence and greed will be aggressively pursued by this office,” Green said in the news release.
Ros, who was released on his own recognizance shortly after his arrest in September, will remain free until sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled, Green said. Ros faces a maximum of 25 years on the two counts.
In return for Ros’ guilty plea on two counts from the original 17-count federal indictment, prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining 15 counts against him, Green said.
As part of the deal, Ros admitted to embezzling a total of $966,257 from the company’s restaurants in Alabama and Florida between August 2009 and May 2013.
Ros also agreed to turn over personal financial information to federal authorities seeking to recover the stolen money.
The scheme began shortly before Fundamental Provisions was initially granted bankruptcy protection in 2009. Attempts to reorganize the company failed, and in March 2012, the company — unable to pay off the debts — was placed in involuntary bankruptcy with a trustee appointed to liquidate the company’s assets.
During that time, Ros was kept on as the company’s chief financial officer and, beginning in August 2009, he directed a manager over restaurants in Alabama and Florida to take money from the stores’ cash registers, according to the plea agreement.
In March 2010, Ros directed a second manager over six Alabama restaurants to pull cash from his stores’ registers, the plea agreement says.
Ros had both managers deliver the money to him by sending it in FedEx packages to him or depositing it in bank accounts belonging to Ros, his girlfriend and others, including a California man who sold Ros the Ford GT race car and Ros’ golf club supplier, the plea agreement says.
Ros used his position as chief financial officer of the company to order the managers to divert the cash and to create records of fictitious purchases in a bid to conceal the payments, according to the plea agreement.