University of Oklahoma regent Phil Albert is accused of embezzling at least $7.4 million from his former employer, Pelco Structural, in a lawsuit filed this week.
Albert, a Tulsa businessman and member of the OU Board of Regents since 2016, was president and manager of Pelco Structural LLC from 2005 until his departure from the company earlier this year. Albert was also co-founder of Pelco, a Claremore-based steel pole manufacturer and marketer.
Albert took legal action against Pelco early in November, claiming the company wrongfully terminated him in April after he reported client concerns with a product failure, and that Pelco never returned some of his personal property after the termination. Albert did not specify a reason for his departure from Pelco when he exited the company in April, The Tulsa World reported at the time.
In a Nov. 25 countersuit, Pelco alleges that Albert committed “wrongful actions, fraud, theft, embezzlement” and more, and that Albert and the company’s former controller owe the company at least $7.4 million. In the countersuit, Pelco denies Albert’s allegations of wrongful termination, claiming that the company learned of Albert’s alleged embezzlement in March 2019 and subsequently fired him.
Pelco's suit alleges that with the help of the company controller, Albert embezzled money by paying himself a higher salary than authorized, receiving unauthorized bonuses and reimbursements, cashing out on excess vacation and personal time and authorizing payments to other employees. The suit also claims that Albert used company credit cards and bank accounts for personal expenses and donations, which eventually totaled more than $2 million.
Paul DeMuro, Albert’s attorney, called the suit's allegations “inflammatory” in a news release, and said Albert’s representation will continue to pursue his action against Pelco.
“Mr. Albert was shocked and dismayed when, in April of this year, Phil Parduhn’s sons abruptly forced him out of the company. We are now engaged in a business divorce,” the statement reads. “Like in many divorces, emotions run high, and inflammatory allegations were made. We intend to pursue vigorously Mr. Albert’s claims, and separate the wheat from the chaff on the claims against him."
In an emailed statement, OU’s Board of Regents said, "Since this is a personal matter for Regent Albert, it is inappropriate for us to comment on the lawsuit. That said, Phil is an excellent Regent and we expect him to continue to serve well into the future."
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