Walla Walla man indicted on theft charges

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PENDLETON -- A Umatilla County grand jury has indicted former Hamley Steakhouse general manager Vince Cannone on theft charges related to his employment with the downtown Pendleton establishment.

Cannone is accused of taking cash, gift certificates and services without paying for them in separate instances.

Cannone -- who recently reopened Jacobi's Cafe in Walla Walla -- was taken aback when contacted Friday afternoon by the Union-Bulletin for comment. After a reporter told him of the indictment, Cannone said he had known nothing about the charges or any criminal investigation and hadn't been contacted by anyone from Umatilla County.

"I'm just stunned by the allegations. That's what has me shocked," said Cannone.

He denied stealing any money, although acknowledged having had "business differences" with the Hamley owners that have led to an unrelated civil lawsuit.

"This opportunity of Hamley Steakhouse did not work out for me," Cannone said.

The Umatilla County grand jury handed up the criminal indictment late Thursday afternoon. Cannone faces seven counts in all:

The first six charges are felonies and the last is a misdemeanor.

Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa said his office will send a letter to Cannone about the charges, telling him when to appear at the Umatilla County Courthouse in Pendleton. An arraignment date hadn't been set.

Cannone was a partner in the steak house with Parley Pearce and Blair Woodfield, the pair who also own the Hamley's store and coffee shop.

Pearce told the Union-Bulletin on Friday he believes Cannone stole between $20,000 and $30,000, mostly in 2008, adding that an accounting is under way to determine an exact amount.

"We became aware of some of the improprieties in late May of 2008 and contacted an attorney," Pearce said, adding the owners fired Cannone in early June of that year. Cannone claims he wanted to be removed from the position of general manager.

Pendleton police investigated the theft allegations. Police Lt. Mark Swanson said the investigation focused on financial activity within the restaurant's business accounts.

Pearce alleges Cannone committed the thefts in various ways, such as cashing checks made out to the restaurant and using a business credit card for personal expenses.

But Cannone said he never did such things and the allegations are rooted in his ongoing dispute with the owners.

"Everything was related to business and they know that," Cannone said.

In January, Anderson Perry & Associates hired Cannone as the firm's business development manager for Eastern Washington. Then in June he reopened Jacobi's, which he had owned about a decade earlier.

He and his family live in Walla Walla and run the restaurant.

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