Michigan AG Nessel Issues 13 Felony Charges in First Payroll Fraud Case

Contact: Dan Olsen 517-335-7666
Agency: Attorney General

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019

LANSING - For nearly 10 years, Lansing small business owner Camron Gnass allegedly withheld more than $52,000 from employees’ paychecks for deferred retirement contributions but failed to deposit the funds into their accounts and pay the employer match. Today, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed several felony charges against Gnass for alleged payroll fraud. This is the first set of criminal charges originating from the Payroll Fraud Enforcement Unit since Nessel established the Unit in April.

“Employees putting money aside for their retirement shouldn’t have to think twice about whether that money made it into their savings accounts,” Nessel said. “When businesses exploit their workers by cheating them out of their hard-earned money, families have less in their pockets and an uncertain future. This has gone on for far too long and Michigan isn’t waiting any longer to crack down on payroll fraud crimes.”

Gnass started Traction Partners – a small branding and design studio firm in Lansing – in 2010. Prior to Traction, he was the owner and operator of Vision Creative which opened in 2007 and was dissolved in 2012. Traction remains open in Lansing with five reported employees, including Gnass.

An investigation of Gnass’s business practices by the U.S. Department of Labor was turned over to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in July 2019. The investigation determined that between 2008 and 2017 Gnass failed to place money into at least two employees’ retirement accounts — even though the money was deducted from their paychecks. Gnass is alleged to have instead placed his employees’ withheld funds into the business’ account and then used the funds for his own personal gain.

In late 2017, Gnass paid a portion of the amounts withheld to the affected employees in an attempt to make them whole. But he remains significantly short on the amounts allegedly withheld, plus the employer matches and the lost investment gains.

Gnass is charged with the following:

  • Four felony counts of Larceny by Conversion (more than $1,000 but less than $20,000) — a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for each count. (One count for each year of withheld funds from an employee within the six-year statute of limitations.);
     
  • Four felony counts of Larceny by False Pretenses (more than $1,000 but less than $20,000) — a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine or three times the value obtained (whichever is greater) for each count. (One count for each year of withheld funds from an employee within the six-year statute of limitations.);
     
  • Four felony counts of Receiving and Concealing Stolen or Converted Property (more than $1,000 but less than $20,000) — a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for each count. (One count for each year of withheld funds from an employee within the six-year statute of limitations.); and
     
  • One felony count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise — a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison with a maximum fine of $100,000.


Gnass will be arraigned in Ingham County 54A District Court.

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.