Ever think about throwing a surprise birthday party for your boss without getting the OK from Finance? Don’t.
Ruth Amen, 10-year office manager and bookkeeper for Gulf to Bay Realty from Boca Grande, Florida, was recently arrested on charges of embezzlement and fraud. But had it not been for a surprise birthday party, she may have never been caught.
Amen, the sole employee in charge of payroll and billing, had decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her boss, without permission (that would ruin the surprise). Nice enough gesture, right?
It turns out this raised a few eyebrows – mainly, her boss’s.
Company officials took a closer look at the books after the party and found that the math just didn’t add up. An official investigation from the sheriff’s office found that Amen had allegedly stolen $181,674 from the company.
According to the sheriff’s office, she used $92,000 of the company’s money to pay personal credit card debt, issued herself extra paychecks totaling $65,000 and failed to deduct insurance costs from her paychecks.
She now faces first degree felonies of Grand Theft and Scheme to Fraud.
For Finance employees at all levels, it’s important to stay alert of potential fraud in the workplace. We’ve written before about how important it is to involve IT by searching for terms most associated with fraud.
But it also pays to have everyone in finance aware of common behaviors that fraudsters employ. Keep an eye out for employees who:
- Have access to money, valuable goods, or other assets
- Are facing financial pressure such as a child in college or a home foreclosure
- Feel as if or talk openly about how they deserve higher pay or should be compensated for extra time on the job.
Does that mean you should cast a suspicious eye toward any employee that’s sending their little Susie to college? Of course not. But it doesn’t hurt to be especially mindful of an employee who displays all three of these signs.
But the best prevention for fraud? Don’t hire them to begin with. Before a job interview, get a credit report before the interview and look for any red flags. Then gauge their honesty right from the get-go with a simple question: “On a scale of 1 to 100, how accurate is this resume?” If this is asked right at the beginning, you’ll be surprised at some of the answers you get.