Sweet Pea’s Hieb accused of theft | SteamboatToday.com

Sweet Pea’s Hieb accused of theft

Market operator suspected of stealing while employed at Bella’s

Jonathon Hieb

— Jonathon Hieb, who operates Sweet Pea Market and Cafe in downtown Steamboat Springs, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of stealing from his off-season employer, Bella's wine bar.

According to an affidavit filed with Routt County Court, Hieb, 45, is accused of stealing $2,631 in cash and product from Bella's, where he worked as a server and bartender. Hieb was charged with theft between $1,000 and $20,000, a Class 4 felony, Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Jerry Stabile said.

Bella's is still completing an audit, and the amount could be larger, Stabile said Friday.

Hieb declined to speak about the accusations. Hieb's attorney, Grant Bursek, sent a letter to the Pilot & Today stating, "Sweet Pea is (in) no way involved with Mr. Hieb's criminal matter."

The affidavit said Bella's co-owner Nick Ciraldo hired Hieb in October. Ciraldo told police that Hieb was trying to "gather enough cash to restart" Sweet Pea and Ciraldo thought he could trust him because of his experience in the restaurant and bar business.

But Ciraldo told police he soon became suspicious of Hieb.

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"The nights that Mr. Hieb has worked the registers sales are not balanced and inventory of the liquor stock has consistently come up short and not matched the sales history of the business on a weekly basis," the affidavit said.

On March 23, Ciraldo began a series of "secret dinners," where he would have friends visit Bella's while Hieb was working and pay cash for their meals and drinks, according to the affidavit. In the affidavit, Ciraldo said he repeatedly found the transactions were not entered in the cash register and tickets were unaccounted for.

The affidavit also said Ciraldo provided police with an audit he conducted in March. It showed that during eight shifts that Hieb worked in March, he recorded 122 credit card transactions and six cash transactions. During 16 shifts that Ciraldo worked, he recorded 135 credit card transactions and 111 cash transactions.

Ciraldo opened Bella's in February 2010 with his sister Lisa Ciraldo-Freese. They also run Chocolate Soup Pastry Cafe upstairs at 737 Lincoln Ave.

"We're really, really upset that this has occurred," Ciraldo said Friday. "We're a family business, and we put a lot of trust in our employees, so when something like this happens, it's really disappointing. It stinks."

Hieb was arrested and released Thursday after posting $5,000 bail.

Stabile said Hieb is due in court at 8:30 a.m. June 21.

When reached by phone Friday, Hieb said Sweet Pea, at 729 Yampa St., would open with its usual summer plant sale Memorial Day weekend. The cafe is scheduled to open a week or 10 days later.

Hieb runs the market with Katherine Zambrana, who is listed as the owner of the business, according to the Colorado Secretary of State.

Hieb and Sweet Pea made news last fall when Routt County commissioners, acting as the county's board of health, revoked Sweet Pea's retail food establishment license, after citing the restaurant for noncompliance with health regulations.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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