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'Wanted' poster leads to lawsuit

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Darryl Enriquez
December 16, 2010
— A Lake Geneva man charged with trying to steal from his former employer contends in a lawsuit that his former boss damaged his reputation by calling him a "most wanted" criminal and by hanging posters about him in taverns and other public places.

The lawsuit filed by Patrick Gerber, 31, seeks compensatory and punitive damages from his former employer, Erik Seaver of Lake Geneva.


The Walworth County District Attorney's Office charged Gerber with attempted misdemeanor theft on allegations that he tried to take a change machine that belonged to Seaver from the Abbey Resort in Fontana on Nov. 28.


Seaver is in the vending machine business, according to court records.


Gerber made his first court appearance on the criminal case Nov. 30. He filed his lawsuit six days later.


Gerber appeared in court Wednesday to hear the charge against him.


According to the criminal complaint:


A resort employee spotted Gerber with a red dolly and asked if he could help. Gerber identified himself as a vending company employee removing a broken change machine.


The resort employee watched Gerber unplug the machine and load it onto the dolly. The employee then contacted the resort's director of pool and game room operations and was told no machines were out of order.


When the employee returned to the game room, he found the machine still there, but Gerber was gone.


The employee contacted Seaver, owner of Central Vending, who identified the man as Gerber, a former employee.


Gerber's truck was seen in the resort's parking lot.


Seaver said the machine is valued at $2,795, and he had emptied $1,234 cash from machine that day.


A Fontana police officer interviewed Gerber, who said he had planned to steal a soda machine from the game room, keep the money and sell the machine and soda. Gerber said he did not intend to steal the change machine.


Gerber told police he became nervous and decided not to steal the machine after he was questioned by the employee.


According to Gerber's lawsuit, Seaver called Gerber in public "the most wanted" criminal in Lake Geneva and accused him of being a thief who was caught stealing money from a video machine.


Seaver's statements were made to harm Gerber's reputation and deter others from associating or dealing with him, the lawsuit states.


"Such statements were made by defendant (Seaver) against plaintiff (Gerber) with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard of whether or not they were false," the lawsuit states.


Gerber is free on a $10,000 signature bond. His next court appearance is 8:15 a.m. Tuesday before Walworth County Judge David Reddy.



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