SANTA ANA  (  —   A former forklift mechanic for In-N-Out Burger and the owner of a company that supplies parts for the machines made their initial court appearances Friday on charges of cheating the fast-food chain out of at least $150,000.

Kevin Anthony Koerner, 44, of Lakewood and Louie Garcia, 47, of Downey are each charged with one count of grand theft and 34 counts of forgery, with sentence-enhancement allegations of a loss exceeding $65,000 and aggravated white-collar crime exceeding $100,000.

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They could face up to 26 years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Koerner, who worked for the restaurant chain as a forklift mechanic, would order parts for the machines as part of his duties. Over time, he developed a relationship with Garcia, the owner of Industrial Material Handling Express, and they cooked up a scheme involving fraudulent invoices for items, the D.A. alleges.

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Koerner wanted for personal use and ordering other parts at prices inflated by 75 percent, Senior Deputy D.A. Marc Labreche said.

The loss is estimated at $158,000, but In-N-Out Burger officials believe it is “substantially higher than that,” Labreche said.

The alleged scheme, which began in March 2005 and continued through July of last year, was allegedly uncovered by one of Garcia’s employees, who alerted In-N-Out Burger and the Irvine Police Department, the prosecutor said.

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