Thursday, October 08, 2015

Not to blame Victim 1 and Victim 2, but wouldn’t you think they’d have noticed something was wrong a bit earlier

I don’t know why – I’ve never been an embezzler,* and to my knowledge, I’ve never known one – but I’m always intrigued by news items about employees with their hand in their boss’s cookie jar. And over the years, I’ve blogged about more than my share of them.

There was the woman – a volunteer, actually - who bought thousands of dollars worth of Pandora charms, and a fancy SUV for her husband – with money ($1M!) she embezzled from her kids’ hockey league. (When Hockey Moms Go Bad.)

I remember another woman who filched money from the construction firm she worked for. With it, she built herself a swell vacation house, and hired Burt Bacharach to sing at her brother’s wedding. But wait, there’s more. Having looked at my earlier post, I found that this thief had gone on beyond Burt Barcharach. She:

...indulged her love of Halloween by purchasing a 20-foot-tall, smoke-spewing dragon statue, mechanical talking trees, and a life-sized Al Capone statute [sic], federal prosecutors said...Prosecutors [also] said Platt threw lavish parties and flaunted her wealth, despite a $40,000 salary. For her brother's planned wedding in 2006, she hired legendary singer/songwriter Burt Bacharach and dancers from "Riverdance." (The original source of this excerpt was The Boston Globe, page no longer available. But my post on it is.)

Then there was the charming local who light-fingered $800K from a small-town library. That’s awful lot of overdue book fines.

The latest entry into the Pink Slip embezzlement sweeps is a local nanny who, over a year and change, ripped more than $280K from the Boston couple she nannied for.

According to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Sheila R. Magoon, [Stephanie] Fox allegedly took checks from the victims’ checkbook, made them payable to herself, and cashed them with forged signatures. The couple is identified only as Victim 1 and Victim 2 in court filings. (Source: The Boston Globe)

Ms. Fox – no Mary Poppins, she – had tastes that went far beyond a black umbrella and carpet bag.

Fox used the money to purchase jewelry including a diamond pendant necklace and three Movado watches,” Magoon wrote [in her affidavit]. “She also used the money for travel, including trips to the Bahamas, Aruba, Hawaii, Newport, Cape Cod and Disney. Fox also made a $10,000 down payment on a new truck.”

I don’t expect that embezzlers are going to spend their misbegotten moola on things like sensible shoes, So a diamond necklace and a few pricier-than-Timex watches are no surprise. Nor are the trips. But those must have been some trips.

Fox took $280K. What was she spending on the Cape – sure, she must have been staying in the Chatham Bars Inn, and not in Brownie’s Cabins, but still - that she couldn’t afford to pay cash on that new truck, but only made a modest $10K down-payment on it?

But the real surprise for me in all this is that it took Victim 1 and Victim 2 – I almost wrote Thing 1 and Thing 2 there – over a year to figure out that someone had written $280K in forged checks on their account.

Admittedly, I don’t balance my checkbook, and haven’t for years. I used to just do an adjusting entry each month and, as long as it was $100 or less, I wouldn’t bother to track it down. I certainly keep high-level tabs on what’s flowing in and what’s flowing out, but life’s too short to balance down to the penny. (Sorry, Ma!) Once I got overdraft protection, well, clear sailing.

Yet even I would most assuredly notice if someone had bilked $2.8K over a 16 month period, let alone $280K. (Not that $280K would have been a possibility, even with overdraft protection.)

Did neither Victim 1 nor Victim 2 ever bother to look at what was going on in their checking account? Apparently not. Nobody gets physical canceled checks anymore, but some folks gt paper statements, and the rest of us at least glance online once in a while. (Mr. and Mrs. Victim still get physical statements. According to the Patriot Ledger, Ms. Fox destroyed the statements before the Victims could see them. Didn’t’ they, ummmm, ever wonder?)

I guess if you keep enough money in your checking account to not notice that more than a quarter-of-a-million bucks are missing, you have enough money in your life not to notice that more than a quarter-of-a-million bucks are missing. Wow! Just wow! I’m nosy enough to want to know if not who they are, then at least what they did. Hedge funder? Professional athlete? Real estate developer? Wow, just wow.

Meanwhile, I’d say that someone who’s been caught embezzling is not going to be easily employable in the future. Then again, Fox had prior arrests for credit card fraud and identity theft, having stolen patrons’ numbers when she worked as a waitress.

That probably won’t be a problem for a while. Fox is facing 30 years in the slammer.

As for Victim 1 and Victim 2, while Fox will be liable to pay restitution, they’ll be lucky to get those Movados, which are likely beneath their wealth-grade to begin with.

*No, I’ve never been an embezzler, but I did have one infamous night at Durgin-Park when the sadistic owner was out for the evening. I ripped off the price of a couple of prime ribs, and a piece of scrod. Not my proudest moment, but you really had to be there.


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