Employee embezzlement is a major problem, especially for small businesses. I recently read an article by Todd Frankel of the St. Louis Dispatch, “Wave of embezzlement cases hits St. Louis region.” Case after case spoke of employees:
- Getting reimbursements in “office expenses”
- Improperly documenting vehicle impound fees and pocketing the money
- Creating fraudulent invoices and making payments to dummy vendors (themselves)
- Skimming money by adding a fee to an invoice, then taking the money once the invoice is paid
Theft by employees is increasing, according to a poll of the members of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Looking at the cases, embezzlement by employee after employee shows that the theft occurs over a long period of time and is taken in small amounts. Unlike a bank robbery, the thief steals slowly and the cumulative amounts are enough to be a felony.
The article makes the point that employee theft and employee embezzlement are more likely to be uncovered in slow economic periods and that’s why the incidence is rising in the last several years.
Many times there is a paper trail that, if scrutinized can lead a trail and demonstrate a pattern – of theft and forgery. Documents are altered and falsified to show a trail, but vendors, clients and sales may all be bogus. Business owners who contact the authorities say they are told without evidence they can’t make any arrest and the authorities aren’t interested in investigating the matter.
That’s when gets calls. The business owner has suspicions, but no documentation or evidence. Many times, it’s a small business and with fewer employees, the checks and balances are not in place. It’s also hard for business owners because long-time employees are often involved.
It’s important that an employee embezzlement investigation is conducted from an objective perspective and that’s why a professional investigator should be called in. If you suspect you have an employee stealing from the company, take action immediately – call a professional investigator and plug the leak before it drains your business completely.
-Brenda McGinley, CEO, All in Investigations, All in Investigations