Woman accused of taking $23,000 from Manchester bistro


BENNINGTON >> A dispute between business partners has led to the daughter of one of them being charged with allegedly stealing $23,000 from a Manchester restaurant.

Nina Rodriguez, 25, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to six felony counts of grand larceny. She was ordered not to have contact with Amber Hamilton, the registered owner of Ponce Bistro in Manchester.

According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Officer Paul McGann, on Jan. 6 Hamilton approached him and said money from the bistro's business account had been moved to another person's private account.

She gave a written statement saying that on Jan. 6, she went to the apartment of Ron Rodriguez -Nina Rodriguez's father- because she needed sales receipts to pay the state meals and rooms tax.

"He has several of my business documents and he must do as I ask or he threatens me. He had the sales slips in his hands on the back stairs and I told him not to threaten me anymore and that I did not want to have to pay taxes out of my new restaurant West Side Station. There was an argument and he said he would crush me," she wrote, in part.

This prompted her to check her bank accounts and it was then she learned Nina Rodriguez had transferred money from the business to another account. Hamilton said that Nina Rodriguez was authorized to make business expenses on behalf of the bistro, but not make transfers to her personal account.

An investigation by McGann showed that $23,935 was removed from the Ponce Bistro account to an account held by Nina Rodriguez over the course of six transactions.

On Feb. 20, McGann met with Ron Rodriguez at the Manchester Police Department. He told McGann that he and Hamilton had been business partners and that they had severed ties and through their attorneys had settled their differences.

He said that he had been partners with Hamilton for many years and that in 2015 Hamilton decided to end the relationship, move to Pawlet, and start her own business. Nina Rodriguez was brought in to handle the bistro's finances in Hamilton's absence. He claimed Hamilton was using money from the bistro to cover expenses on the other business, and that his daughter took money from the bistro's account to prevent more of this.

The affidavit does not indicate Nina Rodriguez was spoken to by police. She was cited on March 9 to appear in court.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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