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“It was a stupid move”: “Currywurst man” Chris Töpperwien denied allegations in court

“It was a stupid move”: “Currywurst man” Chris Töpperwien denied allegations in court
“It was a stupid move”: “Currywurst man” Chris Töpperwien denied allegations in court

“Currywurst man” Chris Töpperwien has to answer to the regional court in Wiener Neustadt.

The German, known from reality TV formats, is accused of breach of trust and embezzlement. The allegations are related to Grill Heaven GmbH, based in Vösendorf (Mödling district), of which Töpperwien was the managing director. The defendant is said to have paid for private purchases with company money in 2021, among other things. He pleaded not guilty.

Töpperwien is said to have made payments – for example in hardware stores or on the Internet – using the company account or company card. In his opening statement, the prosecutor spoke of 18 attacks. According to the indictment, the 50-year-old is also said to have given employees work orders for private purposes, including rubble and bulky waste disposal. The 50-year-old is also said to have outsourced social media activities, which were supposedly covered by his employment contract, to his company in the USA, and the GmbH was supposed to pay for them. The damage was stated to be 7,700 euros.

“Erroneous uses”

The accused is also said to have embezzled items belonging to the company, including knives, barbecue spices and charcoal. According to the court, the damage here amounts to just over 1,000 euros. The accused is being blamed by the company’s employees, said the prosecutor.

Töpperwien’s defense attorney emphasized that some of the charges were due to erroneous use of the company credit card or debits from the company account. Even if the procedure was “botched,” “we are far removed from criminal law,” said the attorney.

“I didn’t realize that would be bad”

He used the moving boxes he bought at a hardware store to move from Baden to a house in the Wiener Neustadt district and then returned them to the company “undamaged,” Töpperwien reported: “I actually didn’t realize that this would be bad.” Borrowing the company bus was common practice in the company, and he paid for the petrol – as well as the bulky waste disposal – with his own money.

He denied buying building materials, switches, cleaning products, a garden hose and a washstand holder for private purposes. The goods were used for the barbecue school and the roof terrace of the company’s Vösendorf site, among other things, “something was always being built.” Employees helped him move, but this was done outside of office hours.

“It went really badly”

In two or three cases he had mistakenly chosen the wrong payment option, so that the company account was debited. “That was a mistake,” said the defendant. “It was a stupid move, a really stupid move,” he said. In one case he had immediately “explained exactly” and transferred the amount “immediately.” The contract was terminated a few days later. He had also mistakenly paid for recessed spotlights through the company, but he only found out about this when the criminal complaint was filed.

Regarding the accusation of embezzlement, Töpperwien stated that he had paid for the knives. He had given or sent the barbecue spices and a knife sharpener to people for social media postings. He had used products such as barbecue charcoal, oil can and spatula for Instagram stories.

Regarding allegations in connection with billing through his US company, the defendant explained that this was a way for his current wife to be paid for her work at Grill Heaven GmbH. “That was one of the biggest shocks for me, that what was actually clear and discussed was not correct,” he explained. Töpperwien was fired at the end of November 2021.

“Almost unbelievable” allegations

The defendant summed up the allegations as “almost unbelievable”. A manager at the company had told him that they would “finish him off”: “Neither I nor my wife expected that this would actually happen.”

Several witnesses who worked for Grill Heaven GmbH in 2021 were questioned. The accountant had found invoices from Amazon or for products such as light switches strange. According to her, fees for bulky waste disposal were paid from the company’s coffers, but Töpperwien denied this. According to witness statements, the company bus was also allowed to be used for private trips outside of working hours after consultation. Grills were sometimes sent in moving boxes, said a warehouse worker. According to the information, Töpperwien had a strained relationship with a shareholder in the company.

14,000 euros in salary outstanding

A verdict is expected in the late afternoon. If found guilty, the case could face up to three years in prison in the single judge hearing. The company, which operates in the grill trade, has joined the proceedings as a private party, paying more than 8,800 euros. According to the defense attorney, the Lower Austrian Chamber of Labor calculates that around 14,000 euros in wages are still outstanding. If this amount is not paid to his client, the lawyer announced that he would file a lawsuit.

Töpperwien became known through the formats “Goodbye Germany! The Emigrants” on VOX and his participation in RTL’s “Jungle Camp” in 2019. The 50-year-old, who emigrated to the USA, was arrested in Germany on the basis of a European arrest warrant and extradited to Austria. He was released on less severe parole.

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