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Belding Party Store closing after employees embezzlement and COVID-19 hurts business

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Posted at 2:10 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 14:10:23-04

SAM MASON IS HEARTBROKEN AFTER HAVING TO CLOSE HIS STORE. — At the end of 2019, two women, 34-year-old Candace McAllister, and 61-year-old Cynthia Wright stole nearly 70 thousand dollars worth of lotto tickets from their employer, Sam Mason, owner of Belding Party Store.

They lost their jobs and each did a little time in jail. Now Sam Mason is losing his business.

“It’s really sad that that had to happen to Sam and his mom. They’d do pretty much anything for anybody. All you have to do is ask. You definitely don’t need to steal from them,” Michelle Allison, who lives next to Belding Party Store, said.

Sam had to pay back the state for the stolen lotto tickets himself. That, coupled with a drop in customers due to COVID-19 shutting down most of the factories in Belding, rising insurance costs because of the theft and expensive overhead prices, means he simply can't go on operating.

“I pretty much got slapped in the face. They got a slap on the hand," Sam Mason, owner of Belding Party Store, said.

Sam says getting restitution from both McAllister and Wright is caught up in the court system, delayed indefinitely because of COVID-19.

“We’re still waiting. Prosecuting attorney has put it on hold because of this COVID-19,” Mason said.

His small neighborhood business has been hurting since before the pandemic. We first told you at the end of 2019 that he wasn't sure if he would be able to keep his doors open after the embezzlement. COVID-19 was the nail in the coffin.

“Small businesses are what makes the community. Now...it’s hard. 7 years and...it’s...the small businesses are the heart of the towns. Without them...the town is going to struggle,” Mason said.

Sam says even if the women who stole from him are ordered to pay restitution, he doubts that money will come in any time soon, saying he doubts their ability to pay what he is owed.

“I pray the court system shows justice. And does force them to pay,” Mason said.