Saturday, October 30, 2010

Scary Embezzlement on the Rise in the United States

Beware of your company's bookkeeper, accountant and anyone who handles money because people you never would suspect could be robbing you blind!  Stories and related convictions among such highly respected professions such as that of pastors, nuns, priests, accountants, school principals and city government officials are growing.  Blogs like Fraud Talk are sprouting up to report on the growing fraud trend.  

The stories are scary because it's clear the people who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes millions, seem to be just your every day good type of people caught up in greed.  Many of the convicted criminals seem to have just wanted to experience what it's like to live the good life regardless of the consequences.  I imagine many of them knew they'd be caught and thought living the high life for a few years was worth it.  Others convicted are obviously addicted to money or gambling.

Marquet International Ltd., an investigate corporate intelligence and due diligence consulting firm, prepares yearly reports on the major embezzlement in the United States.  Marquet's latest report, The Marquet Report on Embezzlement  was released in January, 2010 reporting for the year 2009, only a few months after the 2008 mild economic collapse.  The report confirmed a rise in white collar crimes:
"Employee misconduct and internal corporate fraud will be a continuing and growing problem as the U.S. economy continues to struggle. The seeds of future major embezzlements, yet to be discovered, are being sown in the current market environment. That having been said, the revelation of so many major embezzlements in the US in recent years is in part due to the downturn in the economy beginning in 2008. As the saying goes, 'when the river runs dry, the jagged rocks are revealed.' Corporate fraud schemes tend to reveal themselves when organizations pay more attention to their finances. Other white collar crimes, such as investment frauds, simply collapse on themselves in economic downturns." Report link.
For any writer looking for a nitch market to write for, fraud and embezzlement stories are booming! Here are just a few samples from the Marquet site.  There's a new conviction or prosecution trial listed on major embezzlement schemes every day to report on.  Here are just a few of the most outrageous stories listed on the Fraud Talk Blog within the last two months.

Lori Lockman Julian, 48, of Casselberry, Florida, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for embezzling more than $7.3 million from the William C. Webb Co. and its related business, Industrial Park Development Corp., where she had been employed as a bookkeeper. According to authorities, Julian forged company checks written out to herself and others as well as made online payments to personal vendors and credit cards. The scheme, which netted Julian a total of $7,345,050.13, spanned more than 4 years, from August 2005 through October 2009, according to prosecutors. Authorities said she used the misappropriated funds to finance a lavish lifestyle including a second home, Orlando Magic season tickets, vehicles, boats, designer handbags and other personal luxury items. Julian pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in a plea agreement. She must also pay restitution. Link to Video on YouTube

Karen F. Floyd, 49, of Salisbury, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to charges she misappropriated more than $1 million from Southern Community Bank & Trust, where she had served as a Senior Vice President & Regional Banking Executive. According to authorities, over a 3 1/2 year period, from March 2006 through November 2009. Floyd created at least 11 fraudulent loans made out to "straw" borrowers totalling $1.08 million. She faces up to 30 years in prison, plus fines and restitution on the one count of theft/embezzlement/misapplication by (a) bank officer.

Edward Peter Fiszer, 40, of Newhall, California, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he embezzled more than $1.4 million from the New Academy Canoga Park Charter School, where he had served as principal. According to authorities, in 2008 and 2009, Fiszer obtained at least 12 cashiers checks from school accounts and deposited them into a personal stock trading account. He has been charged with 31 counts of embezzlement, money laundering, forgery and tax fraud. Nevertheless, an audit by the Los Angeles Unified School District found that Fiszer had misappropriated or misused as much as $2.7 million. Sadly, as a result, the school is being considered for closure. Fiszer faces up to 44 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Lisa Ann Castro, 46, of Torrance, California was charged today with embezzling about $100,000 from the Halldale Avenue Elementary School in Torrance and an associated PTA. Castro is a former administrative assistant with the Los Angeles Unified School District under which the school falls. Prosecutors have charged Castro with four felony counts of forgery, three counts of embezzlement and two counts of misappropriation of public funds. Castro is alleged to have forged two principals names and two PTA officials on more than 100 checks over a period of approximately four years, from 2005 until 2009, using the funds for her own benefit. She is reported to have had treasury responsibilities on the two school accounts and two PTA accounts from which she allegedly stole.
The Rev. Samuel Ciccolini, aka Father Sam, 68, of Akron, Ohio, admitted to embezzling about from $1.2 million Interval Brotherhood Home Foundation, a non-profit he founded and ran since 1970. According to authorities, over a period of at least four years, from 2002 through 2006, Ciccolini engaged in an "elaborate subterfuge" by submitting fraudulent invoices purportedly for construction work and equipment that had been donated and receiving reimbursement. He then allegedly falsified records to cover up the fraud. Ciccolini
The Ohio State Auditor's Office released an audit report about its findings in the case involving Erie County's former deputy treasurer, Tamara J. Holeton, 41, of Sandusky, Ohio, who plead guilty this past August on charges she misappropriated $146,592 in funds that were meant to be deposited into county coffers. Holeton plead guilty to theft in office and record tampering charges. The audit report made 7 specific management recommendations to improve controls. According to reports, Holeton misappropriated the funds over a five year period from 2005 until 2010

David A. Thompson, of Canal Winchester, Ohio and believed to be in his late 40s, was found guilty today of embezzling more than $1 million from his church, The World of Pentecost Church in Columbus, where he had served as pastor. Specifically, Thompson was found guilty on charges of theft, money laundering and tampering with records by a Franklin County Common Pleas judge. Prosecutors alleged that Thompson misappropriated funds from the church over a 9 year period from 1998 to 2007. He was charged with the thefts in 20 felony counts in late February 2009 and was alleged to have stolen funds from the church's building and assistance funds which he spent to support a lavish lifestyle, including expenditures on luxury cars, a pool, a boat and hair treatments. Thompson became pastor in 1995. He faces nearly 90 years in prison upon sentencing, scheduled for December 1, 2010.
Source: These people listed above are featured on the Fraud Talk blog. Please note that a couple of the people listed above haven't been convicted, only charged, two of whom have pleaded not guilty

Other sample stories can be found here on the Marquet site..