Ex-Zhu Zhu official charged with fraud

Friday, March 26, 2010 | 10:53 a.m. CDT; updated 1:39 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 26, 2010

ST. LOUIS — The former controller of Cepia LLC, the suburban St. Louis-based company that makes the popular Zhu Zhu Pets, faces federal charges for allegedly embezzling more than $400,000.

The U.S. Attorney's office announced the charges — two counts of mail fraud — against 41-year-old Joseph Van Gronigen of Hillsboro on Thursday.

The crime allegedly occurred from September 2007 through January of this year. Prosecutors say Van Gronigen used the money for personal expenses.

Van Gronigen declined comment. The company released a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, saying that new safeguards and controls are now in place to prevent financial fraud from happening.

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