MARQUETTE, Mich. (WZMQ) – UPDATE 4:28 p.m.: The GINCC has released a statement on its Facebook page regarding the matter:
“Thank you for your continued patience and understanding following the temporary closure of the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Area Chamber of Commerce. We realize there are many questions regarding the unexpected closure. Following meetings and a review of available information at this time, the GINCC leadership is able to report that a financial breach was experienced resulting in funds being withdrawn from the organization’s bank account by an online entity. In conducting a formal investigation, the Ishpeming Police Department has identified a person of interest employed with the organization in the case and has made an arrest.
We appreciate your support as we work through this challenging event. Currently, the GINCC leadership is working to outline next steps focusing on the future of the organization and the continuation of our mission. We extend our gratitude to the IPD for all their efforts to investigate this matter. If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The GINCC also sent a press release shortly after:
The Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Area Chamber of Commerce (GINCC) experienced a financial breach to its bank account by an online entity, which resulted in funds being withdrawn from the organization’s account dedicated to organizational operations. Following the breach, the GINCC office was closed temporarily while the incident was reviewed. A formal investigation was conducted by the Ishpeming Police Department (IPD).
In conducting its investigation, the IPD identified a person of interest employed with the organization in the case. Arraignment is set for December 6. Additional details will not be released at this time pending legal proceedings.
“We appreciate the community’s support as we worked to clearly understand and respond to this challenging event,” said Board Secretary and organization spokesperson, Nate Heffron. “At this time, the GINCC leadership is working to support the investigation and outline next steps focusing on the future of the organization and the continuation of our mission. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Ishpeming Police Department for their swift response and efforts to investigate this matter.
“Financial breaches can happen at any time. We encourage community members, businesses and other organizations to frequently monitor their finances so they can quickly identify and respond to these type of events,” said Heffron.
A date for reopening is still pending.
The executive director of a Marquette County chamber of commerce faces multiple charges, including felony embezzlement.
Samantha LaJeunesse, 34, was hired as the executive director of the Greater Ishpeming Negaunee Area Chamber of Commerce (GINCC) in June 2023. Court records show she’s charged with one count of felony embezzlement- agent or trustee- of $20,000+; one count of felony using a computer to commit a crime (a 10-20-year felony); and one count of felony financial transaction- illegal sale/use of a credit card.
The date of the offense is August 8, 2023. The case was filed on November 15, 2023.
LaJeunesse is scheduled for arraignment in Marquette County’s 96th District Court on Dec. 6.
LaJeunesse previously worked with the GINCC in a marketing role. She replaced Bob Hendrickson as the executive director after Hendrickson announced he was taking a job with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
The GINCC announced on its Facebook page on September 29 that it was temporarily closing for “unforeseen circumstances.” LaJeunesse is still listed as the executive director on the GINCC website as of this publishing.
The Ishpeming Police Department, the agency that filed the case, says it won’t release any additional information until LaJeunesse is arraigned.
This is a developing story. WZMQ will provide updates as they become available.