On The Lookout: Protecting Businesses From Internal Theft
SALISBURY, Md. - Uniforms Unlimited, a Salisbury business specializes in embroidery.
But in 2012, more than clothes went out their doors. Store owner Annette Dashiell says she and her husband noticed money was missing and 12-year employee Crystal Godwin had been stealing from her employers.
"We treated her and her family like family, and we trusted her and to break that trust was unbelievable," said Dashiell.
Dashiell says she installed cameras to see if Godwin had been stealing. When she looked back at 37 days worth of film, she reportedly found Godwin had pocketed $5,000 cash.
"They never, ever expected that this person would have done this to them," said state's attorney Matt Maciarello.
Maciarello says it's an insidious crime more common in a tough economy.
"It's almost like a termite eating away at the business from the inside and by the time you realize you have the termite, you file for bankruptcy," said Maciarello.
Maciarello says it takes an employee who is motivated, willing and able to steal. Employers should also look out for signs, such as employees living beyond means, that may indicate if money is being embezzled, says Maciarello.
"If a person doesn't have the ability to steal because of internal controls, that's a major factor in prevention," said Maciarello.
Protecting internal controls, according to Maciarello, is key to protecting the business from fraud. Those include a division of job duties, monthly bank reconciliations, mandatory vacations, job rotation and cross training, management review and changing passwords.
Sgt. David Owens of the Wicomico Bureau of Investigation says this crime could be stopped by giving multiple employees responsibilities for bookkeeping and being diligent.
"Keep your safeguards in place, check the books and don't say you're just checking the books, check the books," said Owens. "If for some reason the credit card statement looks odd, ask the questions find out what it was used for."
According to Owens, Wicomico County experienced an uptick in the crime "when the economy fell and businesses sort of felt that pinch start to occur."
"They still felt that they were working in the profit," said Owens. "They didn't quite understand why they weren't showing a profit. They started examining their books closer and started to see where those monies were going out.
They hadn't started to go out during this depression, yet started to go out long before this depression came along everything was prosperous at that point in time, so they weren't really paying attention to it."
Maciarello says with 98 percent of these types of cases in the county, there's been no control and no segregation of responsibilities in the business, which happened at Uniforms Unlimited. Dashiell says that practice has changed since the incident.
Crystal Godwin pleaded guilty to theft scheme in August. The 44-year-old woman was indicted June 3rd from charges that spanned from July 2008 to April 2012.
If you were recently victimized, by this type of crime or otherwise, let us know about it. We can share your story to help prevent others in the area from being victimized.
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