Lifelong friends Jeff and Chris came to visit International Investigators the other day. Jeff is a local business owner who built a successful real estate management company and Chris is his attorney. It was Chris who scheduled the meeting.
Jeff really didn’t think it was necessary, but because he trusted Chris, he came along.
The thing is that Chris had been working with the accounting firm that handles Jeff's books. He thinks he uncovered some discrepancies, but the accounting checks and balances seem to be in order.
According to Chris, there is one common denominator in every record in question – and that is Jeff’s secretary, Margot. Jeff keeps saying that he trusts Margot – she’s worked for him for years – 13 to be exact and he thinks it all has to be coincidental.
Investigators don’t really believe in coincidence. Everything happens for a reason - or because of something, so our inclination is to just check it out to find out what the truth really is.
We outlined the options available and in this case, because Jeff really didn't think there was a problem, he opted for what we call the “DIY Investigation Package.” No, that’s not a trench coat, notepad, binoculars and a mug for coffee. In this case, International Investigators provided a clock equipped with a hidden motion-activated video recorder.
Some hidden cameras available for our clients include video recorders that run 24/7 or motion activated recording. The type is determined by the job that needs to be accomplished.
Jeff cam in to pick up the clock-cam and we showed him how to install it, set and check it. The rest was left to happen.
After a week, we contacted Jeff and he said he had nothing. Another week, nothing. But the third week, Jeff didn't wait to hear from us. He cam in with the clock under his arm. We reviewed the video and sure enough, there was Margot – and the checkbook. He said she was probably just taking care of something he didn't know about, but we were able to identify the checks that she had written.
The accountants followed the trail and after a convoluted path, the money ended up in her pocket. Jeff was shocked. But being a businessman, he immediately contacted the accountant and asked that every check with similar payees and every check Chris had questioned be investigated.
You know what happened, don't you? The accountants went back three years on the payees and many of those checks ended up in Margot's pocket.
It wasn’t pretty. Jeff confronted Margot. The police got involved and Jeff’s insurance agent filed a fidelity bondy claim about the employee embezzlement.
One note is that most liability policies will only pay a claim on an individual employee one time. Believe it or not, some employers re-hire employees who have stolen from them – only to have it happen again and there is no insurance recourse in that situation.
But not Jeff. Once Margot was gone, she was gone. Chris on the other hand, continues to be a friendly watchdog – and even more trusted by Jeff.
Jeff took the clock back to his office and still checks it. It’s not that he has lost trust in everyone, he just wants to be vigilant and protect his business – and the rest of his employees.
-T. Wilcox, CEO, International Investigators