Key witness to resume testimony today in Ira Hatch case

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — After opening arguments Wednesday, former office manager for Coastal Escrow Services and the law firm of Hatch & Doty Janette Granberg began to enlighten jurors as to how, over several years, millions of dollars in depositor funds evaporated from the company to cover the business and personal expenses of defendant Ira Hatch.

In her nine years employed by Hatch from 1998 to 2007, Granberg said the law firm of Hatch and Doty – which she said paid Hatch a salary ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 per year plus $20,000 per year for automobile expenses – would frequently run in the red.

To make the books balance, Granberg said, she and the other bookkeepers would “frequently” transfer money in sums of $5,000 to $30,000 — often twice per month — out of the funds deposited with Coastal Escrow Services.

She said she and others created “dummy accounts” for these transfers, accounts with names indicating that the funds were “loans” to Ira C. Hatch or “loans” to Hatch & Doty.

“The perception was that it was going right back into the account, that it was a temporary solution to a problem,” she said.

When Granberg expressed her concerns to Hatch about the dwindling funds, she said he told her that he “had a plan” and that he was aware that he needed to pay back the money. When Hatch closed the business on Sept 4, 2007, Granberg said he called her to let her know.

In regard to the fact that millions in depositor funds were gone, Granberg said Hatch told her “he was responsible, that he would take the responsibility for that.” He also told her to consult an attorney for her protection, Granberg said.

Defense attorney Gregory Eisenmenger attempted to discredit Granberg’s testimony by pointing out that she did not know every detail of the finances or about the accounts held at Coastal Escrow.

He pointed out that, because she was only one of several people entering transactions into the Quickbooks program, that she was not aware of the entire financial picture.

For example, Eisenmenger indicated that Hatch’s children Danielle and Rory — now in their 20s — may have had trusts on deposit with Coastal Escrow which were funded by their grandparents.

Granberg said she had no knowledge that the Hatch children had trust funds on deposit.

Granberg will return to the stand Thursday morning to finish her testimony, as she was sent home Wedensday afternoon by Senior Judge James Midelis to return with some paperwork.

Granberg said she had been told she was testifying under the protection of immunity, but Assistant State Attorneys Lev Evans and Ryan Butler claimed that Granberg was never offered nor granted immunity.

Granberg said she had a document at home proving this and is expected to bring whatever document she has, along with her attorney Andy Metcalf, to court at 9 a.m. The jury of six plus two alternates was told to return to be ready to be on duty at 10 a.m.

The second witness called Wednesday was Vero Beach Police Detective Lee Evans who served several search warrants on Hatch in September 2007 after he closed the doors of Coastal Escrow Services. Evans entered the courtroom with a large box of bags of sealed evidence, which he testified were client files seized from Hatch’s office.

Also expected to testify Thursday are the first of hundreds of alleged victims who lost money deposited with Coastal Escrow Services.

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