Collins owes $231,000 restitution

Published 11:33 pm Monday, October 10, 2011

CASSOPOLIS — It was the biggest embezzlement case Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz has seen in his career.

Danny Collins

Danny Collins, a Dowagiac resident who embezzled more than $200,000 from a Dowagiac company, was sentenced to a three- to 20-year prison term Friday in Cass County Circuit Court. He will receive credit for 39 days already served.

Judge Michael Dodge also indicated he didn’t object to the boot camp program for Collins if he qualifies, which could lead to his parole after 90 days in the program.

The hope, according to Dodge, is to get Collins back to work so he can pay restitution.

The total restitution Collins owes to Nate Wines Inc. is $231,000.

The offense occurred over the course of three years when Collins repeatedly stole wine from the company while he was working there.

Collins then sold the product to vendors in St. Joseph County, Mich., keeping the money for himself.

Collins, 46, had been an employee of Nate Wines since 1998 as a sales representative.

Dodge said it was a family-owned business.

“All employees were considered a part of the family,” Dodge told Collins. “And you betrayed that trust.”

Dodge said it wasn’t “just an isolated incident or momentary lapse in judgment,” but habitual thievery.

“Mr. Collins graduated from the misdemeanor world into the world of felonies in an astounding way,” Fitz said. “This is the largest embezzlement case I’ve seen in my career.”

For his part, Collins expressed remorse. “I’d like to apologize to Mr. Nate’s family. He didn’t deserve what I did. They always treated me well,” Collins said.