Anyone remember Frederick Darren Berg? He's a guy who had a thing – nay, a passion – for charter buses. It just so happens that he also was running Washington's largest ever Ponzi scheme to finance his passion. Moss Adams (who Berg says is not at fault) was the auditor for FDB's Meridian funds – […]
Former Olympus CEO Michael "Go ahead and fuck with me, I'm from Liverpool" Woodford took a big risk blowing the whistle on the $1.5 billion accounting fraud at his old employer. In a show of thanks for finding the booboo, the company promptly fired him. A questionable strategy it seems because Mr. Woodford sued Olympus […]
As we've witnessed, perpetrators of tax fraud oftentimes utilize very simple methods. Slapping a dead person's name, birthdate, social security number, isn't terribly difficult once the data is obtained; throw some minors on there as dependents and you've got yourself a nice little refund at the expense of some grieving family members. Not complicated. You […]
That money isn't going to find itself now, is it? An attorney for the city of Dixon filed a civil complaint this morning against the accounting firms that conducted the city's audit for the past 5 years. The complaint says that Samuel S. Card, CPA, P.C., and Janis Card Company, LLC, both located at 501 E. […]
The Associated Press reports that some property of alleged Dixon, Illinois sticky fingers Rita Crundwell will be put up for sale. The property includes her four homes in Illinois, a home in Florida, and a $2.1 million motorhome. So if you're in the market for a place in the Illinois countryside or in a state […]
Shaun Horan is no Rita Crundwell (allegedly!): A former Oak Brook accountant stole nearly $300,000 from his employer by writing checks to himself over a five-year span, prosecutors said Wednesday. Shaun Horan, 31, of the 1600 block of Blackwell Lane in Aurora, appeared in DuPage County bond court on a felony theft charge. Horan is accused of […]
Remember the fiasco in Bell, California? Mayer Hoffman McCann performed an audit of the city except it turned out that they didn't really perform an audit and it was later discovered that some of the city's leaders were making off with some money. The California State Board of Accountancy called MHM's audits "little more than a […]
Accordingly, Dixon Mayor Jim Burke is putting the brakes on any investigation because "[it] would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars" and the woman who had the magic credit card is in a bit of trouble. Hey, someone had to apply the tourniquet after the city bled out. [WAND]
The ex-CFO of Enron, oh humbly, asks: "If the internal and external auditors and lawyers sign off on it, does that make it okay?" History has shown us that, "that all depends." However, maybe things have changed? [via HBR]
How big? In the neighborhood of $53 million, according to the indictment. Earlier reports had put it closer to $30 million and change. It further alleges that Rita Crundwell stated the scheme in December of 1990 and was "[creating] fictitious invoices purported to be from the State of the Illinois to show the auditors for […]
Crundwell reported to the city's finance commissioner, a member of the City Council, but the mayor declined to comment on whether that current commissioner, David Blackburn, or former Commissioner Roy Bridgeman should have detected the alleged thefts. As Bridgeman left office last year, he praised Crundwell for being an asset to the city and said […]
Joseph Traxler was the CFO of Centennial Mortgage and Funding Inc. in Bloomington. He helped run an $8 million fraud by misleading banks that allowed Centennial to obtain more loans. He also hid defaults and double-funded mortgages from lenders, as well as little check kiting in order to keep the business afloat (rather than enrich […]
As you know, the former CFO of DIxon, Illinois, Rita Crundwell, has been accused of misappropriating $30,236,503 and 51¢ from Ronald Reagan's boyhood home. It's a haul of Sue Sachdeva proportions, although it appears that obsessive shopping wasn't so much the motive as it was a My Little Pony fascination for a grown woman. ANYWAY, […]
Last week we learned that the CFO/comptroller/treasurer for the city of Dixon, Illinois, Rita Crundwell, was arrested for allegedly stealing $30,236,503 and 51¢. She also stands accused, in the court of public opinion, of having awful taste in automobiles, as federal agents seized a Ford Thunderbird upon her arrest. Regardless, these allegations came as a surprise […]
If you've been following the Olympus scandal, it's made for a pretty entertaining affair. It involves $1 billion+ in accounting shenanigans, two feeble Big 4 firms, selective communication with investors, a small shifty auditor, OH! and a former CEO of the company blew the whistle on the whole thing. So of course you'd expect shareholders meeting follow suit. […]
Rita Crundwell has been the CFO/comptroller of Dixon, Illinois since the 1980s; a typical tenure for even an unelected Illinois official. In those 30-ish years, it appears that she performed her duties adequately enough, but she was just put on unpaid leave. You see, at some point in 2006, it is alleged that Ms. Crundwell […]
As you know, convicted embezzling-mother-of-all-hoarders, Sue Sachdeva, had a bit of a shopping problem. She did her damnedest to spend all of $30+ million that she stole from headphone cobbler Koss, but now that she's resting comfortably in Danbury, all that loot needs a home. Back in December, we were tipped to an auction that […]
The Department of Justice trumpeted the guilty plea of Delton de Armas, the former CFO of Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. today, marking the 8th conviction in the TBW fraud case. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer seemed pleased in the DOJ press release: “As TBW’s chief financial officer, Mr. de Armas concealed a massive […]
One-man C-suite Michael Koss and the company that bears his name settled with the SEC today, according to a Commission litigation release. This all stems from the dodgy financial statements the company put out from 2005 to 2009 that were carefully orchestrated by shopper-'til-you-stopped-her Sue Sachdeva. As for the punishment, well, it's kinda meh: The […]
Yes, even if it was Allen Stanford's auditor: CAS Hewlett, an accountant in the Caribbean nation of Antigua where Stanford operated a bank and numerous other business interests, received $4.6 million for auditing services, said Morris Hollander, a certified public accountant who testified as an expert witness. “Are amounts paid for auditing these companies in any way […]
Hard to believe, right?! Well, a "quiet unassuming woman" named Anita Collins spent the last eight years stealing $1 million from the Archdiocese of New York. Funny story! Ms. Collins has been known to have sticky fingers in the past, pleading guilty to grand larceny in 1999 and a misdemeanor charge in 1986. How did […]
Ahh, Vermont. Foliage, second-rated skiing, and, of course, hippies. But apparently, the Green Mountain should be known for something else – stealing from your employer! According to Marquet International Ltd., Vermont "Vermont topped the list of states with highest risk for loss due to embezzlement in 2011." What's the reason for this? Well, it's not […]
The Journal reports that four companies that were integral in hiding all the losses at creative accounting camera company Olympus all shared the same obscure auditor. Minoru Tanaka is still the auditor for three of the four companies although, for some strange reason, he was MIA in the report prepared by the panel that investigated the […]
Remember the good ol' Koss fraud? It's been quite some time since we were on the Milwaukee beat but this morning we received an email informing us that a little auction is being held by Gaston & Sheehan that has several lots (97 to be exact) under "US Marshal Service Assets." Our tipster informed us […]
I’ve gotten some crazy questions over the years but this one pretty much takes the cake. I’m not saying it’s stupid, nor am I saying it’s all that crazy, it’s just… well… out there, is all. Read on.
I’m a college student at the University of North Texas. Fraud has been a hot topic in my courses this month. We covered many scandals including Crazy Eddie, Barry Minkow, NextCard, Enron, and Bernie Madoff. This has got me thinking a lot about how I would react if I was in the shoes of the auditor. The students in my class always say to just report the fraud, however they never put themselves in the shoes of the fraudster to determine how the fraudster would act nor do they think about protecting the reputation o watched enough movies to know that if a fraudster finds out that somebody knows “too much,” then that person probably won’t make it home alive that night, unless they cooperate. I remember in that movie, “The Other Guys,” the auditing partner got killed because the fraudsters didn’t want him snitching out any information to authorities.
Another thing is that if it is found out that a partner is involved in fraud, this will ruin the firm’s reputation if this gets reported to the SEC. However, if the firm handles this internally, fire the partner, admit mistake, and let the public know that it doesn’t want anything to do with the partner, then perhaps only the partner would get in trouble and not the firm.
So exactly how are you suppose to act in situations of fraud? Of course AICPA tells us to first report it to your supervisor, then to the audit committee, and then the SEC. But still though, you got to get this out before someone kills you and you’ve got to handle it in a manner that best protects the reputation of the firm. Am I right? Also, have you ever heard of any auditors that were murdered because they knew too much? When you read about Enron or the Bernie Madoff scandal, there are talks about death threats, but you don’t necessarily hear about any murders involved. So it may be something that only happens in the movies.
Well, since you brought up Crazy Eddie, my first instinct was to pose this question to Crazy Eddie’s corrupt CPA, Sam Antar. Thankfully Sam obviously checks his Twitter account every five minutes and had some thoughts for me almost immediately.
“Yes, the potential is there. Depends on the client. Have that person contact me if worried,” he tweeted. Now isn’t that sweet? If anyone out there is feeling the heat, you know who to hit up.
His thought? It’s rare, if not impossible. Why would a fraudster whack the auditor? By the time the fraud is uncovered, it’s too late. The workpapers would likely document said fraud, so the fraudster would then be forced to whack the entire chain on up to the partner and who has time to do all that killing? “No logic in whacking outside auditor unless part of conspiracy,” Sam said.
That being said, does anyone remember Allen Stanford’s sketchy auditor C.A.S. Hewlett (“C.A.S.H.” get it?!)? He apparently kicked the bucket on January 1st (a real accountant would have kicked the bucket on December 31st, pfft), just a month before Stanford was charged with fraud (though he didn’t get arrested until June of that year). The circumstances surrounding his death were, uh, weird to say the least but I don’t think anyone is going to go so far as to say he got whacked.
Or how about Ken Lay? I mean, does anyone really believe he had a heart attack? There is even an entire website dedicated to exposing Ken Lay’s post-mortem life.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky, and I don’t expect you to know this since you haven’t made it out into the real world yet. What is an auditor’s job? Is it to uncover fraud? Or is it to verify with a minimum of certainty (a.k.a. “reasonable assurance”) that the financial information presented by a company is probably legit? If you answered the latter, you win. Forensic accountants dissect fraud, auditors simply check boxes. I’m sorry if this offends any of you hardcore auditors out there but in your hearts, even you guys know I’m right. Auditing is a joke, an intricate dance (read: performance) that exists more for entertainment than functionality. If you don’t agree with me, I’d be happy to name any number of companies that prove my point for me (let’s see… Enron, Worldcom, Overstock, Satyam, Olympus…).
What do you think the odds are that a first or second year auditor would even be able to detect fraud? Don’t you think the criminals behind it are at least clever enough to hide their wrongdoing from a bunch of fresh-faced kids with their SALY checklists? Look at the lengths Crazy Eddie went to – to success until their greed got the best of them and a chick ruined the whole scam. And that’s the thing, the auditors rarely uncover fraud, it’s usually the fraudsters themselves who end up exposing themselves though greed or just plain stupidity.
Whistleblowers don’t make friends but they don’t have to hire armed guards either. Like I said, by the time the fraud is exposed, it’s too late to start killing people to hide the truth.
And thanks to SOX, it is illegal to “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass or in any manner discriminate against” whistleblowers, so a more likely scenario is that revelations of fraud will come from within the firm, not from the outside auditors who are pissed off to be doing inventory counts on New Year’s Day.
You watch too many movies, kiddo. Just check the list, collect the bank recs and call it a day.
Just a few days ago, Caleb asked why anyone would care if Olympus fired KPMG after a dispute over an accounting matter, but early this morning we learned the answer to that seemingly obvious question.
The question now is, why did KPMG wait around to get fired and not run the hell out of there? Well, because the issue at hand at that point was “goodwill impairment,” which ended up being a series of $1 billion transactions that added up to possible fraud. We won’t say Japanese regulators haven’t had the chance to dissect the evidence yet. We can only assume KPMG did not notice that glaring $1 billion error or surely they would have alerted the financial authorities. No, dismissed “quietly,” swapped out for Ernst & Young. Like Uncle Ernie needs this heat right now.
Fine. Now we’re at tonight (here, at least) and WSJ is live-blogging the press conference at which Olympus’s new president suffered a media grilling over revelations that the company used phony mergers to hide investment losses from shareholders.
“I was absolutely unaware of the facts I am now explaining to you,” new CEO Shuichi Takayama told the press conference. “The previous presentations were mistaken.” Right. First thing you do in this situation is CY-MFing-A, bro.
The Japanese medical equipment and digital camera maker admitted to using acquisitions to cover its securities losses going back to the 1990s. Think about that for a moment. Many of you weren’t even aware of the world around you in the 90s, that was a long fucking time ago. So much for confidence in fragile financial markets.
It wasn’t that long ago that Olympus fired its British CEO Michael Woodford. Takayama had to answer more than a few questions about Woodford at his press conference:
There is a question about Mr. Woodford. “There are no plans for him to return,” Mr. Takayama said.
A reporter asking why the company is not thinking about revoking Mr. Woodford’s dismissal.
Mr. Takayama said Mr. Woodford was dismissed for his management style and therefore, there is no thought of revoking that dismissal.
A reporter asks Mr. Takayama if his impression of Mr. Woodford has changed in light of the revelations, his response: “No, it has not.”
It’s very interesting how they are holding the line against Mr. Woodford. It almost seems personal.
It couldn’t possibly stem from a feeling of betrayal and anger! A 20-year-old (alleged) fraud is suddenly trotted out into the 24-hour Internet news cycle (they didn’t have that in the 90s when they started this scam) and these guys have to apologize to shareholders because this asshole went sniffing around their completely obviously fake M&As.
“It is truly extraordinary and frankly unbelievable that Olympus, a major Nikkei listed public company, made a series of payments approaching USD 700 million in fees to a company in the Cayman Islands whose ultimate ownership is still unknown to us, preventing the auditors from verifying that no related parties were involved,” Woodford wrote in an Oct. 11 letter. “In putting the company first, the honorable way forward would be for you and Mori-san to face the consequences of what has taken place, which is a shameful saga by any stretch of the imagination.”
Woodford hired PwC, who wrote a damning report exposing Olympus’s shady M&A activities. PwC spokesman Derek Nash said he “could neither confirm or deny” that the firm had done any work for Olympus.
Fuck! When will these whistleblowers stop?
The good news: plenty of work coming up for you, GC faithful.
A mobster, a lawyer and an accountant walk into a bar… Okay, maybe not.
Yesterday, thirteen people – including five lawyers and a Certified Public Accountant – were arrested in early morning raids in New Jersey, Florida and Texas for their part in a complicated scheme that involved taking a mortgage company by force and frittering away its assets.
Federal prosecutors say the son of imprisoned crime boss Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo and his associate Salvatore Pelullo took over Irving, TX mortgage company FirstPlus Financial Group, a company with plenty of cash but very little sophistication. The change in ownership was not amicable for both involved parties. According to the indictment, Pelullo told a member of the FirstPlus board that if he did not go along with the planned takeover, “your kids will be sold off as prostitutes.” Harsh. At what B-school do they teach that tactic?
The indictment goes on to allege that Pelullo wanted the company’s board to agree to give control over to his and Scarfo’s new board of directors and that he wasn’t willing to wait around for this to happen. “I don’t care if they’re in a funeral parlor, I don’t care if they’re in a [bad word] hospital on a respirator, we’ll send somebody there. I want their vote, I want their signature, and I want it done by the close of the day today,” he is alleged to have said to other individuals also charged in the scam.
Among those indicted are former FirstPlus Chief Executive Officer John Maxwell and former Chief Financial Officer William Handley. Court documents show that both individuals were placed on the board by, er, unconventional means that don’t include the desires of shareholders ifyouknowwhatI’msayin.
Fun fact: former Vice President Dan Quayle was once a FirstPlus board member. He is not mentioned in any indictments. Also, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino used to be a shill for FirstPlus. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and, according to a Chapter 11 filing from June of this year, was dormant but profitable due to a securitized pool of mortgages it expected to make a profit from for at least a decade. Ernst & Young resigned as the company’s auditor in 1999, citing, uh, irreconcilable differences but not anything to do with accounting issues or, you know, the fact that the company was basically broke.
The 25-count indictment includes charges of money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice.
Authorities say that the (alleged) criminal masterminds took $12 million from the company in a year and spent it on multiple homes, weapons and ammo, pricey luxury vehicles, a plane, jewelry and a yacht. You know, the usual.
Let this serve as a warning to any would-be embezzlers out there, if you steal, you better report it to the IRS.
42-year-old Collette Snyder of Timonium, MD pleaded guilty earlier this month to filing false tax returns in 2007 and 2008 after she neglected to claim over $382,000 embezzled from her former employer, Towson, MD-based Maple Leaf Title.
As part of her duties at the title company, Snyder had signature authority over the company’s operating, settlement and recording accounts, which allowed her to begin embezzling money from MLT accounts starting in 2007. She deposited company checks directly into her personal bank account, as well as made checks payable to her husband without his knowledge, forging his signature to deposit those checks in an account he was not aware of. At that point, Snyder had been an employee of MLT for two years.
Snyder took around $149,560 in 2007 and $232,968 in 2008. These embezzled funds were used to purchase jewelry, a BMW, trips, home improvements and private school tuition.
Because reporting this money to the IRS without it clearly declared on her W-2 (despite her writing “payroll” in the memo section of company checks she wrote out to herself) would have alerted authorities to the fraud, Snyder neglected to mention the ill-gotten gains. This resulted in an estimated tax loss of $115,529.37 for her 2007 and 2008 returns.
Due to the embezzlement by Snyder and MLT President Anthony Weis, MLT was unable to perform its duties as a provider of settlement services. With MLT’s escrow account drained, existing mortgage notes could not be paid off by MLT, meaning clear and free title could not be passed to the new lender and borrower of those notes. An insurance company that had issued title insurance policies to the borrowers guaranteeing clear title ultimately paid out $3.9 million to financial institutions that held mortgage notes.
Weis pleaded guilty to wire fraud, was sentenced to 78 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $4,007,705, which includes the loss to the title insurance company and the expenses of the individual victims. He began his sentence in May of this year. The interesting part of this story is that Weis stole money intended for his clients’ real estate closings. And then Snyder stole from the company. Birds of a feather…
Snyder faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled her sentencing for February 3 , 2012 at 11:00 am.
“Mortgage fraud adds to the underground economy that erodes the integrity of our tax system and threatens the financial health of our communities. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice,” said IRS – Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett.
Apparently he is still “cooperating with federal investigators” which leads some to believe that he might be giving them the lowdown on the Madoffs’ tax returns but really he probably is just trying to convince someone – ANYONE – to give back his beloved CPA. [Lohud via Forbes]
A lot of work goes into building a championship baseball team. Good pitching, solid defense and, contrary to some people’s opinion, pinstripes seem to help. What many people easily forget is that there is more to it than just talent on the field. There’s the business aspect of baseball that is essential to every successful team. You can’t just throw a bunch of money around and hope for the best, Steinbrenners. There has to be a plan. The San Francisco Giants, the reigning champs, are one of those teams. Unfortunately for the Giants, they are not impervious to bad luck. Case in point – Robin O’Connor, a former payroll manager for the team, has recently been accused of embezzling more than $1.5 million from the organization. The team was not aware that this misappropriation was happening until someone at Bank of America (Yes.) rang them up with news of a letter they received from Ms. O’Connor, who had recently applied for a home loan and had written a letter explaining two very large deposits into her bank account. Apparently, someone at BofA found the following a little bit out of the ordinary:
“Because of her outstanding contributions to our Major League Baseball team and front office during the 2010 season that assisted us in accomplishing our goal of winning the 2010 World Series, she was given two additional payments of compensation in May 2011,” the letter, quoted in the affidavit, states.
Yes, the correct calculation of federal, state, social security, medicare and other miscellaneous deductions were of such magnitude that it warranted not one but TWO bonuses for Ms. O’Connor. Because if no one gets paid, no one is happy. And unhappy players don’t perform.
James Li and David Chow used to run a shop called Syntax-Brillian Company as the CEO and Chief Procurement Officer respectively. They sold high-def, LCD TVs under the Olevia brand in China. Problem was, they didn’t really sell TVs under the Olevia brand in China. According to the SEC:
[F]rom at least June 2006 through April 2008, Li and Chow engaged in a complex scheme to overstate Syntax’s financial results by publicly reporting significant sales of LCD televisions in China, when in fact the vast majority of these sales never occurred. Li and Chow initially concealed the scheme through the use of fake shipping and sales documents.
Of course, they couldn’t do it alone. They needed a CFO. A CFO who would backdate things when asked and ignore obvious signs of bogus revenue. That man was Wayne Pratt who, from the sounds of it, wasn’t too concerned about ANYTHING:
The SEC alleges that Wayne Pratt, Syntax’s Chief Financial Officer, ignored red flags of improper revenue recognition and participated in preparing backdated documentation that was provided to Syntax’s auditors to support fictitious fiscal 2006 year-end sales. Pratt also ignored indications of impaired assets, agency sales, and potential collectability issues.
So, budding criminals, get on the look out for a guy/gal who is accustomed to shrugging their shoulders and responding “Meh. Whatever.” to your demands. Should work out well for you.
Earlier this week we shared with you the latest analysis from KPMG that listed “key fraudster traits” and some of them seemed to describe a lot of the people you have worked or are currently working for. Things like “volatile,” “unreliability,” “unhappy,” and “self-interested” describes everyone I’ve ever been in around in the corporate world to one extent or another.
Since I was skeptical of this list, I asked Sam Antar what he thought of it. If you’ve been reading us for awhile, you’re familiar with Sam. If you’re new, I’ll do a quick refresher. Sam was the CFO of Crazy Eddie’s and was one of the masterminds behind one of the biggest financial frauds of the 1980s. While you (and I) were eating cereal in front of the TV on Saturday morning, Sam and his cousin Eddie were selling electronics and home appliances to our parents for rock bottom prices, while ripping off the government and investors for untold millions of dollars. In other words, the guy is a crook and knew/knows lots of crooks and knows their hopes (read: money), their dreams (read: money) all that crap (read: more money) and what they’ll do to get them. With that, Sam told me what he thought of KPMG’s analysis:
I was both a friendly and likable crook who treated my enablers real well as I took advantage of them. I treated my victims even better than my enablers, as I emptied their pockets. Old saying, “You can steal more with a smile, than a gun.” KPMG knows nothing about the character traits of criminals. They couldn’t even catch me as Crazy Eddie’s auditors. They trusted me!
So maybe – JUST MAYBE – you should also be wary of the client or co-worker that you really like because he/she takes you to lunch every day, gets you laid, takes you for rides in a fancy car or invites you to coke-fueled weekend ragers with seemingly no strings attached. Plus any client that has a viral marketing campaign should get an extra look:
Of course not all of your bosses are crooks…or are…nah. But just to be on the safe side, make sure you’re giving the stinkeye to anybody with the following characteristics:
• Volatility and being melodramatic, arrogant and confrontational, threatening or aggressive, when challenged.
• Performance or skills of new employees in their unit do not reflect past experiences detailed on resumes.
• Unreliability and prone to mistakes and poor performance, with a tendency to cut corners and/or bend the rules, but makes attempts to shift blame and responsibility for errors.
• Unhappy, apparently stressed and under pressure, while bullying and intimidating colleagues.
• Being surrounded by “favorites,” or people who do not challenge the fraudster, and micromanaging some employees, while keeping others at arm’s length.
• Vendors/suppliers will only deal with this individual, who also may accept generous gestures that are excessive or contrary to corporate rules.
• Persistent rumors or indications of personal bad habits, addictions or vices, possibly with a lifestyle that seems excessive for their income, or apparently personally over-extended in their finances.
• Self-interested and concerned with their own agenda, and who has opportunities to manipulate personal pay and rewards
But as we all know, the ex-stripper wife is the clincher.
Poor BDO, they never get in the news. But hey, they do today!
Former BDO partner George Mark got off easy this week when U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer said he didn’t deserve to go to jail thanks to his “extraordinary” charitable efforts and remorse for his actions. Mark’s tax evasion was uncovered during an investigation into Pennsylvania beverage company Le-Nature’s, who apparently specialized in nepotism, ass water and fraud.
Mark will instead serve two years of probation and pay a fine of $30,000.
A federal jury recently found Le-Nature’s former president Robert B. Lynn guilty of 10 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. The jury found him not guilty on 10 additional fraud counts and deadlocked on five others, which left Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch Jr. no other choice than to declare a mistrial on the remaining charges. The company’s CEO Gregory Podlucky and other company officers are facing prison for their part of a $37 million fraud.
While investigating Le-Nature’s ugly mess, the IRS found out that Mark declared fake travel expenses on his 2004, 2005 and 2006 tax returns for about $90,000. The IRS determined that Mark was living the gangsta lifestyle out in the Philly ‘burbs, rented an apartment in NYC, traveled a lot and owned a few luxury cars.
The U.S. attorney’s office had hoped the judge would come down with jail time in order to convince would-be tax cheats that this is serious business but the judge felt Mark’s volunteer efforts for Hope International and other charities was sufficient proof that he wasn’t all that bad of a guy, perhaps just a little misguided.
Back in 2008, 74 investors alleged fraud and negligent misrepresentation against Wachovia Capital Markets, Wachovia Securities and two accounting firms, Ernst & Young and BDO Seidman for their respective parts in the Le-Nature’s scam, in which company officers (mostly CEO Podlucky and his kin) would secure loans for business equipment only to turn around and use that money for things like, oh, sapphires and overpriced watches.
E&Y audited Le-Nature’s until BDO took over. “E&Y was aware that Podlucky could single-handedly influence or manipulate the company’s financial results …” charged the lawsuit. The company basically made up $240 million in revenue and BDO auditors declared the company’s financials were free of material misstatements. FAIL.
Anyway, congratulations to the former partner for, uh, being such a model human being. Or something.
As far as embezzlements go, Gary Williams did all right for himself. As the CFO of Marian Gardens Tree Farm, he allegedly walked away with $15 million or so before he was convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud related to said allegations. He was pretty good at disposing of the money, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, “[he] spent $1,800 at John Craig Clothiers in Winter Park, treated himself to nearly $9,000 in Prada luggage and leather goods, and indulged in $15,000 in services at an exclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.” Obviously this leaves $14 mil or so to throw around and it doesn’t appear that this was a problem:
[Prosecutor Mark] Simpson said Gary Williams, who had blamed cocaine addiction for influencing his behavior, drew a six-figure salary from his employers from 2002 through 2007 while he was embezzling millions, destroying business records and encumbering farm equipment for secret loans for personal use.
He made large withdrawals from company accounts, telling bank officials that it was for “employee bonuses.”
Simpson said Williams, who divorced his wife of 35 years and became estranged from his two children, lavished younger men with jewelry, luxury automobiles, Caribbean vacations and gifts that could not be recovered. “This was not just theft,” Simpson said. “This was financial rape.”
Drugs! Phony bonuses! Hot men in hot cars in hot locations probably having hot sex! This is the stuff that straight-to-DVD movies are made of! But unfortunately the victims in this case aren’t doing as well as they have seen a dime of the money that disappeared:
The Hillary family, which owns the farm and employed Williams for two decades, has yet to receive any restitution from its portly former chief financial officer. According to court documents and interviews with prosecutors, Williams blew hundreds of thousands of dollars at lavish resorts in San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the West Indies. He flew friends on chartered jets and helicopters; dined at five-star restaurants; hired a private chef; and partied at marquee nightclubs.
He explained frequent work absences by falsely claiming to have pancreatic cancer. His employers say they thought he was undergoing experimental treatments.
Williams did lose 100 pounds — but from gastric-bypass surgery, a farm executive said.
For whatever reason, the Sentinel felt it necessary to drag Williams’ big-bonededness into this story as it isn’t clear whether or not some of the loot was used to fund the surgery. At the very least, Williams, who is serving 12 years, can hopefully keep his figure in prison.
Jet-setting CFO gets dual terms for embezzling $15M at tree farm [Orlando Sentinel]
First, if you hate your inventory counts, can you only imagine what it’s like to have to keep tabs on tank after tank of frozen bull semen? Count your blessings, people.
A woman in Ohio pleaded not guilty last week to stealing a tank of bull semen valued at $110,000 from her employer. Authorities say 45 year-old Karen Saum planned to use the semen to extort money out of her employer – the rightful owner of the sperm – to start her own business. I can only imagine what kind of business she planned on starting with the seed money.
Detectives said a tip led them to Saum’s garage, where they found the stolen semen. Just a tip.
Det. James Hollopeter told WHIO TV that Saum used her knowledge of the company’s internal workings to lift only the high quality semen. “She knew where this semen would have been located,” he said. “It was actually locked in an interior closet because it was more valuable that some of the other that they had out.”
Right. Because everyone knows you don’t leave the good shit lying around where any old creepy criminal can get their paws on it.
Yesterday I sat in a session at the ACFE Fraud Conference and Exhibit entitled “Effectively Using Social Networks and Social Media in Fraud Examinations” with a few hundred [?] fraudbusters and I got the impression that few people in the room were social media savvy (in the stalk-y sense, anyway). I came to this conclusion after watching most of the hands in the room go up when asked “who thinks social media is a waste of time?” and saw nearly same amount of hands raised when asked “do you have some sort of social network presence?”
Cynthia Hetherington, President of Hetherington Group, described herself as “[A] librarian, a technologist and licensed private investigator. So, I’m a nerd, I’m a geek and I’m a dick,” was the speaker for this particular session and a lot of her talk introduced the crowd to the idea of stalking people on the Internet. She knew her crowd well, as a joke about Laverne & Shirley’s apartment got plenty of laughs, while a quip about Snooki got crickets. This reinforced my suspicion that the idea that of curating information about financial crooks using Facebook and Twitter was new to many in the room.
Now, the majority of people listening may have known it was possible to find partially-nude pics on someone’s Facebook profile or Twitter account (which she demonstrated in one non-Anthony Weiner example) but maybe they hadn’t considered that they could learn a lot of other useful information about someone they were investigating.
In short, Ms. Herrington explained to the biz casual crowd that you can find out a lot of information about a person just by poking around their social media accounts. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you can learn someone’s likes, dislikes, their political leanings, where they’ve lived, who their friends are, etc. and use that information to build a profile, analyze behavior or in some cases, find out where someone maybe hiding.
What does all this mean? Opportunity my friends. If you fancy yourself social media and Internet savvy, you probably have a leg up on many of the vets in the fraud and forensics business when it comes to poking around the Web and finding information on people of interest to you. Sure you may not have their years of investigative expertise, extensive contacts or an aging wardrobe but you may have successfully Web-stalked ex-significant others, crushes and completely random people to learn things that they’ve volunteered into cyberspace. And here you thought your creepy behavior was completely worthless.
In what might be a lagging indicator of recession-spawned misdeeds, the percentage of reported corporate frauds compared with all other reported incidents increased to 20.3% in the first quarter of 2011, a rise of more than 60 basis points from the previous quarter, according to data from 1,000 organizations worldwide. Of the 30,000 ethics- and compliance-related reports from people at those organizations in the first quarter, more than 6,100 concerned accounting or auditing irregularities, embezzlement, kickbacks, and other forms of fraud. [CFO]
Mark Schreiber, a former controller of fitness guru Tony Little’s business empire, has been accused of embezzling nearly $600k by forging Little’s signature. Apparently Schreiber was involved in some “online horse wagering” which must not have gone too well since he ended up…stealing money (allegedly).
According to T. Little’s lawyer, Latour “L.T.” Lafferty, the $600k is pocket change to his client but he’ll be damned if they aren’t going to pursue every means necessary to get every cent back:
“We’re certainly going to pursue any legal avenues to recover every cent that was taken from Mr. Little,” said his attorney, Latour “L.T.” Lafferty. “It doesn’t impact the financial well-being of Mr. Little. But certainly it’s a significant blow and a serious breach of Mr. Schreiber’s place as controller of his business operations.”
Since TL is a man of health and fitness and not of numbers, it’s not surprising that he’s found himself in this conundrum but he did have his suspicions:
Little realized something was amiss last year, according to court records, when he moved to fire Schreiber as a controller overseeing his Pinellas Park companies’ finances. He was dissatisfied with Schreiber, records show. He set up a July 27, 2010, meeting.
But before they could meet, Schreiber sent an e-mail: “I quit.”
After Little’s new accountant had been poking around for awhile, it was pretty obvious things weren’t kosher. They called in a forensic expert who discovered that 152 checks were drawn over 11 months to the sum of $583,379.
Right now the “degenerate gambler” motive seems to be the most plausible scenario, although it’s entirely possible that Mr Schreiber was sick with jealousy over the sexual tension between Little and his infomercial leading lady, Darla Haun. We’ve presented some footage that will likely be introduced into evidence during Schreiber’s trial:
A report in Bloomberg apparently thinks so.
From the ‘Berg:
HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Europe’s biggest lender, was warned twice by auditors that entrusting as much as $8 billion in client funds to Bernard Madoff opened it up to “fraud and operational risks.”
KPMG LLP told the London-based bank about the risks in 2006 and 2008 reports. The firm was hired to review how Madoff invested and accounted for the funds, for which HSBC served as custodian. KPMG reported 25 such risks in 2006, and in 2008 found 28, according to copies of the reports obtained by Bloomberg News.
Okay l there for two before everyone gets too excited. Let’s just get one thing straight right off the bat – KPMG probably leaked these reports to Bloomberg (I only say probably because I don’t know for an absolute fact but – COME ON – who else?). Secondly, even though the report says “warned twice by auditors” this was not an audit performed by KPMG; it was “[a] review how Madoff invested and accounted for the funds.” What exactly that entails isn’t clear; possibly agreed-upon procedures? Anyway, here’s what the story says were in the two reports:
In the list of risks in KPMG’s report, number 2 was that “BLM embezzles client funds,” using the initials as shorthand for Bernard L. Madoff. To prevent it, KPMG recommended in both 2006 and 2008 that HSBC “establish a process to monitor monthly statements” and reconcile them with contributions from clients.
The 2006 report listed fraud risk number 5 as “client cash is diverted for personal gain” and risk number 18 as “trade is a sham in order to divert client cash.” It went on to say there were concerns “Madoff LLC falsely reports buy/sell trades without actually executing in order to earn commissions” and “BLM falsifies accounting records which are provided to HSBC.”
KPMG reviewed samples of trades and account statements for both its 2006 and 2008 reports to test the risks and detected no discrepancies, the reports said. Even so, the firm suggested HSBC “consider undertaking a periodic review which includes tracing a sample of client trades back to the bulk order.”
After reading that you might think that KPMG hit a home run but what if the “risk factors” listed are just standard boilerplate risks that are included in every single one of these reports? If that’s the case, then KPMG was slapping in the applicable information as it related to BLM, handed it over and collected a nice fee. Maybe KPMG was all over this but there’s no way to know because A) Bloomberg didn’t republish the reports in full; B) Other KPMG teams close to Madoff are getting their asses sued which means they either ignored the risks or couldn’t get a hold of these two reports and C) HSBC throws KPMG under the bus, essentially saying that they were duped by Berns:
HSBC confirmed hiring KPMG in 2005 and 2008 to review Madoff’s firm, adding it now believed Madoff had tricked the auditors. “It appears from U.S. government filings that Madoff and his employees foiled these reviews by, among other things, providing forged documentation to KPMG,” the bank said in an e- mailed statement.
“KPMG did not conclude in either of its reports that a fraud was being committed by Madoff,” HSBC said. “HSBC did not know that a fraud was being committed and lost $1 billion of its own assets as a victim.”
So did KPMG warn HSBC or not? This Bloomberg story seems to think so but there are is a lot of evidence that KPMG was just as clueless as as everyone else who didn’t walk – or run away screaming, arms flailing – away from Madoff.
For Michelle Lynn Shelton, who is accused of taking $760k of her employer’s money, the answer is “NOT LONG!”
Detectives launched their investigation in December after another accountant, who was filling in while Shelton was away from work, discovered the apparent transfer of a large amount of money between two personal bank accounts, police said. Police said the company conducted an audit and contacted police. Shelton started working for the company in June 2007 and the evidence suggested she began diverting funds two months later, police said.
Allegedly! Admittedly, we’re a little behind on this one but you know how it is. Anyway, your Ponzi scheme du jour comes by way of the great Northwest, where Frederick Darren Berg, who seems to have some sort of charter bus fetish, is being prosecuted for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in Washington.
When he was at the University of Oregon in the 80s, Berg allegedly helped himself to his fraternity’s cash to fund a “charter bus venture” and then pleaded guilty to a check-kiting scheme with another bus company a few years later. After those nickel and dime failures, Fred was done messing and decided to really do this:
The 48-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Meridian Group is accused of defrauding hundreds of more than $100 million invested in his Seattle company’s mortgage funds between 2003 and 2010.
Prosecutors allege Berg spent tens of millions on a ritzy lifestyle, including a posh Mercer Island mansion, two yachts and two jets.
But investigators say Berg diverted a bigger chunk, estimated at $45 million, to create a luxury bus line that served tour groups and sports teams, including the Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
And we all know what happened to mortgage funds, don’t we? Okay, then. So your next question probably is, “how did the auditors miss this one?” Well!
Berg used some simple stratagems to mislead auditors at Moss Adams, a large Seattle-based firm, which produced audits for a trio of Meridian funds for three years.
The standard procedure is to send out confirmation letters to a random sample of mortgage borrowers and compare what they say they’ve paid with what the lender’s records say.
But Moss Adams didn’t notice most of the confirmations it sent out were going to post-office boxes and coming back with the same handwriting, said [bankruptcy trustee Mark] Calvert.
Berg had rented more than 20 P.O. boxes and had the mail forwarded to another address in Seattle. He was replying to the auditors’ queries himself, according to the indictment.
[Cringe] Oops. To be fair, auditors can’t be expected to be hand-writing experts…can they? Mr. Calvert seems to think so and told the Seattle Times that he plans on suing Moss Adams and Deloitte for their roles. Oh, right! How do they fit in? To wit:
Berg also hired Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to do a “valuation report” on funds V through VII, meant just for Meridian management. Meridian, however, used it to reassure investors, touting Deloitte’s conclusion “the sample mortgage pool appears to be of higher quality and better performance” than comparable loan portfolios.
But Calvert said Deloitte’s supposedly random sampling “was not completed as outlined” in its agreement with Meridian. He declined to be more specific.
Moss Adams and Deloitte would not comment on their work for Meridian.
Golf is probably the furthest thing from most of your minds right now because a) it’s somewhere between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside or b) you hate golf. For the latter, you can continue reading in so you may engage in laughing and pointing. For the former, despite it being the offseason in most parts of this fair land, a report from the Manchester Evening News should cause you to temper down your love for a
good walk nice spin in a cart spoiled.
A golf fanatic accountant who stole thousands from his employers and then funnelled it into his ailing club has been jailed. David Beech, 59, showed a ‘bizarre misplaced sense of loyalty’, when he siphoned over £70,000 from his bosses into struggling Oldham Golf Club, where he was treasurer.
But Beech, of Holly Grove, Chadderton, was rumbled when a company auditor went through the books. He pleaded guilty straight away and repaid £51,262 of the cash back although £19,300 was still unaccounted for, Sheffield Crown Court heard. At court it also emerged he received an 18-month suspended sentence 23 years ago for stealing from another employer. Defending, Robert Smith said Beech had demonstrated a “bizarre, strange, misplaced sense of loyalty” to the golf club. “It had a negative impact on the club in that they were under a false impression as to their own finances,” he said
Typical reaction of the members:
From John Veihmeyer’s favorite local broadsheet, the South Bend Tribune:
A local certified public accountant has been arraigned in Berrien County Trial Court in St. Joseph in connection with the alleged embezzlement of nearly $100,000 from a trust fund.
As for the how and the why:
Officers said the funds allegedly were taken from the trust fund account of Winifred Lentz around the time of Lentz’s death in 2005. Falsified documents were used to disguise where the money actually went, police said
They said Barnes used the money to carpet his home and purchase Euros during a period when he took a cruise. He also allegedly took more than $45,000 to pay off a personal loan.
Since Andrew Cuomo decided to make our lives insanely busy this week, we’ve been talking to lots of different people about what will happen next in the Ernst & Young saga. We stumbled across a couple of experts, Dr. Mark Zimbelman an Accounting Professor who specializes in fraud, forensic accounting and auditors’ detection of fraud at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, along with his son, Aaron Zimbelman, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose research interests include auditing, financial statement fraud and corporate governance.
The father and son team have a blog, Fraudbytes, that discusses, well<