March 31. 2014 5:27PM

Ex-employee at Gold's Gym admits to embezzling thousands of dollars

New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD - A payroll manager of six Gold Gym health clubs who authorities say had a Percocet addiction and heavy debt pleaded guilty last week to embezzling more than $350,000 from the company.

Nikki Donovan, 25, of Hollis, faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced for fraud July 17 in U.S. District Court in Concord. Federal prosecutors say Donovan stole the money over 18 months by inflating her salary.According to court records, Donovan managed the payroll of six Gold Gyms located in Nashua, Manchester, Merrimack, Milford, Goffstown and Hudson, employing a total of 250 people.

From January 2011 through July 2013, Donovan first assisted in the management of and then managed the clubs' payrolls for employees, which included herself. She compiled the needed payroll information and then emailed it from her office in Nashua to a payroll company, Paychex, in North Reading, Mass., which issued the checks.When Donovan was first hired in January 2011, she earned $10.50 an hour or $420 for a 40-hour week. Half of her wages was paid by the Nashua club, with the remaining half split among the five other gyms.In 2011, according to court documents, Donovan stole $17,027 and took another $109,041 in 2012. In 2013, she allegedly embezzled $238,969.

The scheme was uncovered in August 2013. The previous month, the owners hired a new payroll manager. Donovan was told "Amanda" was hired as a back-up payroll manager and Donovan resigned shortly after, believing her embezzlement had been uncovered, according to authorities.It hadn't been, however. It wasn't until the following month that "Amanda" uncovered the theft and notified the owners. Before police were called, however, one of the owners exchanged text messages with Donovan. She told him no one else was involved in the theft, that she had a drug addiction and that the money she stole went to pay bills and toward all aspects of her drug addiction - first getting the drugs, then medicine needed to wean her from the addiction and an outpatient program to start the process of getting clean.She said the money went to pay rent and groceries and whatever bills she was unable to pay and for car payments and car repair bills.

On Sept. 13, 2013, she met with a Nashua detective and admitted she stole about $346,000 from the health clubs by inflating the number of hours she worked. The total amount taken was $365,037, according to court papers.A call to Gold's Gym for comment was not immediately returned.