Bookkeeper Embezzeled Thousands from Employer

Nick Fishman

Lieutenant Bob Hansen of the Medford Police Department in Oregon has some advice for employers: “It will cost a little to hire a background check, but it’s well worth it.”  This after a bookkeeper at Mellelo Coffee Roasters was arrested on charges of first-degree aggravated theft and five counts of first-degree theft for embezzling more than $40,000 for the company’s coffers.

When the Medford police did a little digging, they found a pattern of theft that began in 2008 including theft of cash and doctoring books to hide losses.

No need for me to get on my soapbox on this.  We all know the moral of this story. However if you know me, brevity is not my forte, so I thought I would share a personal story.

My grandfather and uncle owned real estate development company in the 70’s and 80’s and their most trusted employee was in fact, their bookkeeper.  For the sake of protecting the guilty, we’ll call this person “Mary”.  Mary was like family.  They trusted her with everything and compensated her well.  Sometime in the late 80’s they either noticed unaccounted expenses or had some type of financial audit.

You can imagine their surprise when they found out that Mary had stolen tens of thousands of dollars over the years.  And remember, that kind of money was no chump change back then (nor is it now).  Now, of course the concept of a background check wouldn’t catch on with your average employer until the 90’s, so I can’t really fault them for not performing proper due diligence before hiring her.  However, this did teach me an important lesson which is that any one can steal from you.  We’ve seen it with trusted employees, consultants and even other family members.  Now, that background checks are the norm, it’s important to use them, whether you are hiring a friend, or a friend of a friend or a complete stranger.

Nick Fishman
Follow Me

Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
Follow Me
Tweet
Share
Email
Share
  • Name

    I have over the past 30 years investigated many of these cases and I never cease to wonder why the directors of the company took so long to find out what was happening. Part of a directors job is to understand the financial aspects of running a company just as much as the other elements that help a company function. Money is the life blood of any organisation and therefore should be a major priority with which every director should be conversant with. If a director is faced with this type of fraud then I suggest that he take a good long look at himself and ask whether he is a sufficiently competent person to run a company and perhaps give a great deal of thought to handing over to some one who is.

  • Wil

    Too many small businesses these days forgo background checks because of the expense…but you’re absolutely right – a little cost now can save you on a much bigger cost later should things go wrong.