If you’re an accountant and you plan to steal from a client or your employer or whomever, one thing is certain: You are confident. Why else would you try to embezzle money unless you were sure you wouldn’t get caught? As noted criminal Sam Antar has said, “It’s a calculated risk. Everybody takes precaution against failure, but nobody ever plans on actually failing.”
Here’s a story of Joseph Stevens, CPA, who’s been charged with bank fraud. Allegedly, he stole nearly $500k from a client who trusted him to “handle all his bookkeeping for his business,” including “paying vendors, employee payroll and business and personal tax return preparation.”
Stevens had access to the client’s bank accounts, including the routing and account numbers. You see where this is going. Stevens must have felt confident about this. It was the perfect combination for an uninterrupted gravy train of fraud.
But trains derail, from time to time.
[I]n September 2016 the business owner realized that monthly bank statements were no longer being received at his office. He went to the bank on March 24 to review his accounts’ activities and found that two checks, both made to Joseph Stevens, had been forged with his signature
All right, so the jig is up. But the actual end of the story is much more enjoyable:
He then received a call on April 4 from the bank, telling him that someone was trying to negotiate a $5,000 check drawn on his account […] The business owner told the bank that the check was not authorized and to freeze the accounts.
While still on the phone with the bank, Stevens called the business owner to tell him his accounts had been frozen.
Ah yes, the dutiful accountant calls his client to alert him to something strange is going on with his bank accounts. Bank accounts that he allegedly treated as his personal piggy bank. He must have thought that his client would be the last person on Earth responsible for freezing the accounts. What an incredible moment that must’ve been.
Joe: Hey, did you know that your bank account was frozen?
Client: Hi, Joe. Let me answer your question with a couple of my own: Did you know that someone made two checks out to you and forged my signature? Did you also know that someone is trying to pass an unauthorized $5,000 check on my account right this second?
Client: You’re busted, Joe. [Slams phone down]
It was probably less cordial than that. Plus, no one slams phones down anymore because there isn’t an app for that (a decent one, anyway). Still, it had to feel good catching that guy.