Steve Shickles was arrested Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 on a theft charge. (Madison County jail photo) (Ashley Remkus | [email protected])
A former Huntsville CEO has filed for bankruptcy and listed his creditors as companies that claim he embezzled more than $10 million from them.
Steve Shickles and his wife Ronda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court and listed $10 million in debt, court records show. The bankruptcy filing came just days after Huntsville tech firm Simple Helix and its sister companies filed a lawsuit accusing him of embezzling about $10.2 million.
Steve Shickles, 40, resigned as CEO of Simple Helix after the company confronted him about a PayPal account he had been secretly operating for years, according to court records.
The company’s lawsuit alleges Steve Shickles defrauded the company of more than $10.2 million by diverting company money into personal accounts, paying personal loans with company money or paying personal expenses with company funds. The lawsuit also names Shickles’ wife, Ronda, as a defendant. The document alleges the couple kept more than 20 high-end vehicles — allegedly bought with stolen funds — in warehouses around Huntsville.
In their bankruptcy filing, the Shickles couple listed as creditors Simple Helix, Deep Blue Holdings, Alpha Hosting and 451 Press, LLC., all of which are related companies that allege he stole from them. Listing the companies as creditors suggests they had some type of borrowing agreement, but the companies’ lawsuit alleges the money was taken via theft. The companies haven’t yet responded in court records to the bankruptcy filing.
Attorneys for the Shickles couple declined comment.
Individuals can file Chapter 11 bankruptcy to propose a plan of reorganization to repay their creditors over a period of time.
Simple Helix alleges that Steve Shickles secretly operated a PayPal account in the company’s name for years. From 2012-2019, the account took in about $2.5 million — of which the Shickles couple withdrew or transferred into their personal bank account about $1.6 million, the company’s lawsuit says. The couple also spent from the company PayPal account more than $800,000 for almost exclusively personal expenses at restaurants, grocery stores, entertainment services, clothing retailers, private school, gas stations, medical providers, hotels, massage parlors, nail salons, auto part stores and more, court records allege.
A company audit revealed that from 2013-2017, Steve Shickles was reimbursed more than $3 million for payments made on his personal credit card account, the lawsuit says. Records state that when confronted, he refused to provide documentation for the charges. From 2012-2017, the lawsuit says unsubstantiated credits for Steve Shickles were entered into Simple Helix’s accounting software, causing him to be overpaid by about $3 million.
Steve Shickles has been criminally charged with stealing more than $2,500 from the from the company, Huntsville police Lt. Michael Johnson said and records show. Police declined to release further details about the case. Ronda Shickles hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Simple Helix asked a judge to seize vehicles, vehicle equipment, Segways, video equipment, electronics, guns, tools and more that may be held in the warehouses or at the couple’s home, alleging the items were purchased with stolen funds. The lawsuit states the Shickles couple stored more than 20 vehicles, including Porsches, Jeeps, BMWs, a Tesla, a Tiffin motor home, a vintage half-ton military style truck and more, in warehouses around Huntsville.
Because of the bankruptcy filing in federal court, Simple Helix’s lawsuit against the Shickles has been put on hold. Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall said she couldn’t rule on the company’s motion for seizure. U.S. District Judge Clifton R. Jessup Jr. is presiding over the bankruptcy case.