Embezzling scheme hurts colleagues, friends

Inspectors advise business owners to have outside company audit books

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It's a lesson all businesses can learn from.  It involves an embezzlement scheme of almost a million dollars, and the thief was a friend and colleague of the victims.

"The foundation of this business was built on trust," said US Postal Inspector Tammy Mayle.

It was an environmental engineering company specializing in hazardous materials cleanup.

"They worked at previous companies together. They started a business together. They trusted each other," explained Mayle.

But $800,000 went missing and one of the company's founders was the culprit.

"He used the money to build a house in a very nice community and do very extravagant upgrades to the house," said Mayle.

The upgrades included a $100,000 geothermal system, a $30,000 driveway and an expensive wine cellar.

"Everything he got for his house was top of the line," said Mayle.

And the company paid for it.

"In our case, there was money sitting there for the taking... and the one individual felt he could help himself to it," said a victim at this business, who did not want to be identified.

Mayle added, "He claimed on expense reports that his expenses were job code related, when in fact, all those expenses went to fund the cost of his new home."

The problem:  the company had no checks and balances.

"He was putting in his expense reports and also approving the expense reports," said Mayle.

And others suffered because of it.

"I didn't come to work every day thinking someone who was a friend and business partner would be stealing from us and would put himself in a position of spending multiple years in jail and putting his three business partners and their families losing everything," the victim explained.

Inspectors say if you own a business, small or big, have an outside company come in every year to audit your books to make sure all expenses are legitimate. The company executive in this case was convicted of mail fraud.

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