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Ex-employee accused of stealing $600,000 from fitness guru Tony Little

PINELLAS PARK — Personal fitness guru Tony Little made a fortune hawking workout products. The St. Petersburg resident's companies have made millions, and Little's frequent TV appearances and infomercials have made the ponytailed bodybuilder famous.

Now a former employee is accused of stealing nearly $600,000 from "America's personal trainer," as Little calls himself.

Mark Schreiber, 50, of St. Petersburg was arrested Friday on a charge of grand theft of $100,000 or more. Pinellas Park police didn't say what happened to the missing money, but Schrei­ber told investigators that he was heavily involved in online horse wagering.

"We're certainly going to pursue any legal avenues to recover every cent that was taken from Mr. Little," said his attorney, Latour "L.T." Lafferty. "It doesn't impact the financial well-being of Mr. Little. But certainly it's a significant blow and a serious breach of Mr. Schreiber's place as controller of his business operations."

Little realized something was amiss last year, according to court records, when he moved to fire Schreiber as a controller overseeing his Pinellas Park companies' finances. He was dissatisfied with Schreiber, records show. He set up a July 27, 2010, meeting.

But before they could meet, Schreiber sent an e-mail: "I quit."

After Little's new accountant starting finding financial discrepancies, a complaint was filed with Pinellas Park police. According to court records, a forensic accountant discovered that the fraud started in August 2009. In the next 11 months, records show, 152 checks were fraudulently drawn from three of Little's holdings — Health International Corp., PHP5 and tonylittle.com — for a total of $583,379. Most of it, according to records, went into bank accounts controlled by Schreiber.

Little said his name was forged on all those checks.

Police said Schreiber avoided discovery by opening online banking accounts for Little's companies and stopping the mailing of bank statements, which were being reviewed by other employees.

Schreiber told police that Little signed each check. He said Little was paying him back for the money Schreiber loaned him from his "gambling winnings," according to records. Schreiber stated on a 2010 tax form that he won $400,767 on youbet.com, which allows online gambling on horse races all over the world.

Schreiber was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Monday after posting $150,000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge. A judge appointed a public defender to represent him.

That happens when a defendant says he cannot afford an attorney.

Reach Jamal Thalji at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Ex-employee accused of stealing $600,000 from fitness guru Tony Little 04/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 5:50pm]

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