The former CFO of Price Simms Holdings, which manages several California dealerships, will be sentenced March 29 after pleading guilty last year to embezzling more than $1.6 million from the company — money in part spent on luxury items from Chanel and Hermes.
Christopher Firle was originally scheduled to be sentenced this past Tuesday in federal court in California on one count of wire fraud before the date was moved back. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Firle was charged in February 2021, and he pleaded guilty in July. As part of his plea, he agreed to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution to his former employer and to forfeit nearly $1.7 million to the U.S. government, according to a release from the Department of Justice.
The release refers to the company where Firle worked only as "a holding company that managed several vehicle dealerships." A filing in a separate civil suit related to the embezzlement identified Price Simms as the dealership holding company that Firle stole from. Price Simms CEO Adam Simms declined to comment to Automotive News.
Firle worked for the company from September 2015 to October 2019, and the first incident of embezzlement happened in January 2016, according to court documents. He started as the vice president of finance but was soon promoted to CFO.
Over the course of almost four years, Firle initiated more than 30 unauthorized wire transfers, issued 30 unauthorized checks to himself and his family and made several unauthorized withdrawals, according to federal prosecutors. The wire transfers were made to accounts held by both Firle and his wife, and some checks were made out to his father, mother and daughter.
He also issued himself bonus payments of almost $160,000, said the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California.
Firle's most egregious theft happened via company credit cards, which he used for more than $750,000 in personal expenses, according to prosecutors. Purchases included tickets to sporting events and luxury goods from stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Chanel, Hermes, Nordstrom and Tiffany & Co., the press release said.
Court documents also show that he used company credit cards to pay for stays at hotels in Las Vegas, Honolulu, the Bahamas, Orlando and other popular vacation destinations.
Firle was caught as part of an FBI investigation, the press release said.
Price Simms Family Dealerships ranked No. 89 on Automotive News' most recent list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 10,305 new vehicles in 2020. The group had 16 locations as of early 2021, according to the list.