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September 12, 2014 News

Former MasterChef contestant Aaron Thomas has $7.6m embezzlement claims dropped

Michael Idato

Published: September 11, 2014 – 9:34PM

Aaron Thomas, the 26-year-old former contestant on MasterChef Australia, who was accused of embezzling more than $US 7 million ($7.6 million) from his own company, has had the allegations dismissed.

Thomas, who was sacked as CEO this year from the company he founded in 2010, was accused by the remaining shareholders of embezzling money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his fiancee, Brazilian-born Thaiana Rodrigues.

The suit claimed Thomas had used the company’s bank account as a “personal piggy bank”, and accused him of extravagant spending, including luxury charter jets, holidays and a Tiffany & Co engagement ring worth $US171,000.

But the complaint by Oakmont was “discontinued with prejudice”, according to the Manhattan Supreme Court.

“Discontinued with prejudice” is a legal term which means the case is being discontinued and an undertaking is given that the case will never be re-filed.

According to Thomas’ lawyers, the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement and in turn, all allegations against the former MasterChef contestant were dismissed.

Thomas’ lawyer Rob Garson said his client was “pleased that the vexatious and baseless allegations” had been dropped.

As part of the settlement, the 25 percent stake in Oakmont which Thomas still held has been sold back to the company for an undisclosed amount.

Mr. Garson said Thomas was “now looking toward the future”. “His focus is on companies that operate with integrity, have strong returns, and create shareholder value for investors,” Mr. Garson said.

The 26-year-old Melburnian appeared in the first season of MasterChef; his occupation was listed at the time as “student”.

Thomas was eliminated from the series in the sixth week, after failing to get the correct balance of spices in his paella.

The 2009 series was eventually won by contestant Julie Goodwin.