Bookkeeper Found Guilty of Occupational Fraud

     20 September, 2015
    Occupational Fraud Forensic Accounting

    Occupational Fraud

    EMPLOYEE GUILTY OF 108 COUNTS OF OCCUPATIONAL FRAUD

     “Your fraud involved also a considerable degree of deception and a measure of sophistication”. You are now 42 years of age.  You have no prior convictions, and it is a sad  reality that you have lived to the present a life that has been a worthwhile one as a family member and as a member of the community, but you stand now convicted of what  is a most serious offence.”

    These were some of the comments from Chief Judge O’Brien in sentencing Debra Anne Woltmann, a 42 year old wife and mother of four children.  The sentence handed down in the District Court of Queensland on 1 May 2015 was 5 years imprisonment (suspended after 14 months) for defrauding her employer. The case was described as an  aggravated fraud offence due to the fact the offending was committed as an employee and the amount involved exceeding $30,000.

    His Honour commented further that:

    “On 108 separate occasions over a period of about three and a-half years, you misappropriated from your employer an amount of some $276,000. You were employed by that firm as a bookkeeper.  It was a small family business, and the breach of trust that is involved in this case can only be described as considerable”.

    “…it seems to me that in this case, the seriousness of your offending conduct cannot simply be measured by reference to the amount of money that is involved.  I have seen the statement of your former employer, the complainant in this matter, and it is clear enough to me that no penalty I impose on you today can adequately reflect the sense of betrayal at your conduct or restore the harm, financial and otherwise, that has been done to your former employer”.

    When asked to comment about this matter, Mr Jensen, the Director of the Complainant, stated:

    “I knew that something wasn’t right.  Working long hours, company was profitable, but we always had cash flow issues.

    Our accountant recommended we engage Steven Ponsonby from Forensic Accounting QLD to put the books under the microscope. The Forensic Accounting Qld investigation uncovered significant anomalies resulting from a number of fraudulent transactions at the hands of a staff member.

    The matter was promptly referred to the QPS and on Steven’s recommendation, a solicitor was engaged to commence civil proceedings for recovery of the misappropriated monies.  The swift and prompt action of Steven and his team allowed us to achieve full restitution of the misappropriated payments quantified and payments for interest and legal costs.

    If we hadn’t engaged the services of Forensic Accounting QLD, I doubt that we would have achieved such an excellent outcome in such a short timeframe.  We really appreciated the professional and fresh approach adopted by Steven and his team at Forensic Accounting QLD and would have no hesitation in recommending their services.”

    This case highlights the importance of engaging the correct professional help at the first indication of an anomaly or any fraud behavioural red flag[1].

    Having a Certified Fraud Examiner (“CFE”) on your team will give you the best possible chance of achieving a successful prosecution and maximising a civil recovery in any occupational fraud.  The CFE credential denotes proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence.

    The ACFE[2] is the world’s largest anti-fraud organization and premier provider of anti-fraud training and education. Together with more than 75,000 members, the ACFE is reducing business fraud worldwide and inspiring public confidence in the integrity and objectivity within the profession.

    CFEs around the world help protect the global economy by uncovering fraud and implementing processes to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place.

    [1] 2014 ACFE Report to the Nations: http://www.acfe.com/rttn-red-flags.aspx

    [2] http://www.acfe.com/

    Steven Ponsonby is a Chartered Accountant FCA, a Certified Fraud Examiner CFE and Insolvency Practitioner RITP and is the founding Director of Forensic Accounting Pty Ltd, a leading independent forensic accounting practice, providing forensic accounting services and expertise to a broad spectrum of clients across Australia.

    2 comments

    1. Phil Stewart
      |

      Steve, sorry ’bout this, but in the second para there is a typo as regards the amount of the theft. I think it should read…”the amount involved exceeding $300,000″ (not $30k).

      I would be interested to read more about this matter. The type of fraud and the manner in which it was concealed. My small business clients rely heavily on the honesty of their bookkeepers so it is a matter of some relevance. Was the transcript published?

      Thanks
      Phil

      • |

        Hi Phil,

        Thank you for your email. We advise that this isn’t an error, rather is referring to the severity of the fraud due to the misappropriation exceeding the sum of $30,000 pursuant to Section 408C of the Queensland Criminal Code (1899).

        We will be publishing a Blog/case study on this case in the future which will provide further guidance on the circumstances surrounding this case. As far as I am aware, the case hasn’t been reported to date. We obtained a copy of the sentencing transcript from Auscript which we used as a reference point. Happy to chat further, give our office a call or alternatively provide your contact details to [email protected] and I will contact you.

        Regards Steven Ponsonby

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