Manager accused of stealing more than $180K in fraud scheme at Sun Prairie diner

Manager accused of stealing more than $180K in fraud scheme at Sun Prairie diner

A former manager at a Sun Prairie restaurant is accused of bilking the company out of money and supplies in a yearslong fraud scheme, according to documents filed in court.

Debra L. Riphahn-Vera, 54, is facing felony charges related to alleged thefts from the Market Street Diner. She received a $500 signature bond in court Monday.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Dane County court Friday, Riphahn-Vera was the general manager from May 2008 through January 2016 at Market Street Diner, which is owned by the Food Fight Restaurant Group.

The complaint said that Food Fight noticed the deposits during the last week of December 2015 were not being made and investigated. They found that the deposits were not made and that the cash proceeds taken in through the restaurant were not in the restaurant or in the safe, but the checks received from patrons were still in the safe. The account for Market Street Diner states that the loss for the cash during the week before Riphahn-Vera was fired was $18,281.

The complaint also described a “chargeback” supply theft scheme that involved Riphahn-Vera’s candle store, the Wisconsin Candle Co., which was behind the diner on East Main Street. Police believe she bought items as Market Street Diner that were for her store, then sold them at the candle store as merchandise. Food Fight accountants estimated the value of the fraudulent purchases is $9,578.61.

Riphahn-Vera is also accused of creating an accounts receivable cover-up scheme. According to the complaint, she used accounts receivable checks from the bakery and the catering portion of the Market Street Diner business to fill in the deposits that Riphahn-Vera kept the cash from, in order to still make the deposit. The alleged cover-up took place over many years, but the Market Street Diner can only produce evidence from 2011-2013, which added up to $73,998.48.

Riphahn-Vera told Food Fight in December 2015, when they noticed 10 deposits failed to make it to the bank located near the restaurant, that she didn’t know where the deposits were and that she lost them, according to the complaint. A Food Fight executive told police the group’s policy was that deposits be made to the bank every day or at least the next day.

The complaint said police searched Riphahn-Vera’s home and her store in April 2017 and that various items were found at each location that matched up with items purchased using fraudulent invoices submitted by Riphahn-Vera to Market Street Diner and paid by the diner. Those items were delivered to Riphahn-Vera’s home, her store or the Market Street Diner, but were used by the candle company.

The criminal complaint noted Riphahn-Vera lives in Monona, but other court records show she lives in Windsor.

Combined, Riphahn-Vera is accused of taking $180,790.24, according to the complaint. She’s charged with theft in a business setting of more than $10,000, theft by false representation of more than $10,000 and theft of moveable property more than $10,000.

A status conference is scheduled in the case at 1:30 p.m. on June 3.

According to the complaint, Riphahn-Vera has multiple aliases. The Sun Prairie Star reported that under one of her names, she was found guilty of issuing worthless checks in 2009 and was on probation for that case through March 2014.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.