Alamo Heights firm accuses ex-employee of stealing about $1.7 million

SAN ANTONIO — Chris Lingle has taken to Facebook to document the glamorous lifestyle he and his wife, Sarah Lingle, share.

He has posted photos of vacations in exotic places, a new Audi car, luxury watches, designer shoes, and home improvements.

But the San Antonio couple now faces allegations that they paid for it with money stolen from Sage Architecture Inc. of Alamo Heights, where Sarah Lingle worked for nearly five years as a bookkeeper and office manager.

In a lawsuit filed last month in the San Antonio district court, the architectural and landscaping firm accuses her of repeatedly using a corporate debit card to pay for luxury items and common expenses such as mortgage payments and grocery bills.

Sage uncovered nearly $1.6 million in thefts through debit card charges, which she says were authorized only for purchasing office supplies and equipment.

In addition, it says it found nearly $96,000 that she allegedly stole by forging checks.

Attempts to reach the Lingles for comment were unsuccessful. Phone numbers for them were not working or taking calls. She owns a house in block 27200 of Spiral Canyon on the far north side.

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Randy Dove, a Sage executive, made a statement through San Antonio attorney William Ford.

“We are extremely disappointed to learn that a person in whom we had placed such a high degree of trust had stolen from us for the past five years,” he said. “While this was a shock to everyone in our company, we are moving forward – we will continue to serve our customers as we have always done. This has not affected our day-to-day operations in any way.”

Dove added that the company “will continue to work with both state and federal authorities as we move through this process. We intend to leave no stone unturned.”

Sarah Lingle and her husband Chris pose for a photo taken at the STK Steakhouse in Las Vegas, according to his Facebook post, on December 31, 2021. She is accused of embezzling more than $1.6 million from Sage Architecture.

Court document

criminal investigation

Sage officials notified the Alamo Heights police of the theft on Aug. 26, 10 days after Sarah Lingle resigned. A police official said Tuesday that the case has been turned over to the US Secret Service.

No criminal charges have been filed against Sarah Lingle, 38.

She joined Sage in November 2017 when she was known as Sarah Pardo. She married Chris Lingle in October 2020, who will turn 49 this month.

Court records show she was charged with a felony for failing to require a child to attend school in 2018. A first offense carries a $100 fine. Her case was dropped.

Chris Lingle has a history of clashes with law enforcement from the early 1990s to 2008, and records show he spent time in state prison. He was charged with, among other things, theft of motor vehicles, fraud, and prostitution.

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In an affidavit accompanying the lawsuit, Katie Rios — who replaced Sarah Lingle as Sage’s bookkeeper and office manager in July — says she discovered numerous uses of corporate funds that were not for legitimate business purposes.

Rios discovered improper charges and checks written by Sarah Lingle from July 2018 to August.

“My investigation to date has uncovered approximately 4,520 incidents of unauthorized debit card use and misuse of checks,” Rios said in the affidavit. “This is an average of 81 unauthorized charges per month.”

Sarah Lingle falsified Sage company checks in three ways, her complaint says. She allegedly gave herself double paychecks twice. She allegedly issued fake checks to other employees and approved them on herself. And she forged checks to one of her companies, Aura Consulting LLC, which is also a named defendant in the lawsuit.

Big living

Photos Chris Lingle posted to Facebook under the name “Chris Lingel” include a scenic shot of the Caribbean Sea in the Cayman Islands. The August 10 photo included the caption, “So this is where you launder the dollars.” Another from a Grand Cayman beach had the caption, “This island has fun activities while you do your laundry.” The photos were included in Sage’s lawsuit.

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The day before, he posted a photo from Cozumel. “Swimming with dolphins and drinking margaritas isn’t a bad way to spend a morning,” he wrote.

The couple also went on vacation in Cancun in June.

But Sage also says his debit card has paid for loans on three vehicles, shopping, gym memberships, spa treatments, and restaurants. The lawsuit includes claims for fraud, violations of the Texas Theft Liability Act, and breach of fiduciary duties.

On September 16, the day Sage filed his lawsuit, it was given a temporary restraining order against the Lingles to prevent them from spending money allegedly stolen from the company. The warrant was obtained ‘ex parte’, meaning that neither the Lingles nor representatives were present before them to oppose the request. Sage said they feared the couple would not return to the United States if they were notified of the court hearing.

A court hearing on a temporary injunction was held Friday, but none of the defendants appeared, according to a court report. The restraining order was extended until October 14, when a new hearing is set.

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