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HUNTINGTON — G.D. Ritzy’s owner Jason Webb knew his restaurant had been hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the impact of an employee accused of embezzling from the company has hit harder.

Cabell County authorities this week charged George M. West, 51, with embezzling $20,552 over three months ending March 31 from G.D. Ritzy’s at 1335 Hal Greer Blvd., where he worked. He was released on bond.

A message left Friday with West’s attorney went unanswered.

Webb told police West was responsible for making cash deposits for the business.

On Thursday, Webb said like any restaurant, G.D. Ritzy’s had been hit hard by the pandemic, rising food costs and the nursing strike at Cabell Huntington Hospital. While loans given for COVID-19 relief for businesses helped the restaurant survive, it was still hurting.

Webb said West had been working at G.D. Ritzy’s since 2020 and had worked on Webb’s food truck for about a year before that.

Webb said he received a social media message about a 2017 story in the Charleston Gazette-Mail about West and problems at a Charleston diner.

“I was like, ‘Oh, Lord, I’ve been duped,’” Webb said. “And sure enough, I went back and looked deeper into my finances and saw as soon as I had let him start making cash deposits, when we got our [Paycheck Protection Program] money, he started taking money from us.”

West said he was working in the area to be closer to his father, who was living in a Huntington retirement community, Webb said. He said he was told West’s family sold an Italian restaurant in California, which is why he had so much money.

“And here’s how he left me — he told me that his father had passed away. And he needed some time off. And never came back,” he said.

West took four employees with him, Webb said.

West is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Cabell County Magistrate Court later this month.

G.D. Ritzy’s, which has been a staple in Huntington for decades, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Webb said, and the restaurant is doing well, all things considered.

“It appears to be better than I thought,” he joked.

Webb said he is willing to own up to the mistake of letting an employee handle cash deposits. Webb said he understands he most likely will not get his money back, but he doesn’t want others to suffer the same fate.

“I am embarrassed,” he said, “but I’m not going to hide from it. I want them to know.”

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