SEBASTIAN, Fla. (December 11, 2019) — A woman who worked for her employer for over seventeen years was arrested after sheriff’s deputies say that she cashed at least 48 checks written on her employer’s account. The amount stolen is nearly $70,000.00 in about a year and a half. According to an article appearing on the TCPalm.com website, the 44-year-old woman from Sebastian was employed by a local contracting business. She was the company’s bookkeeper for her entire seventeen-year career with the company. The accused posted a $30,000.00 bond and was released from the Indian River County Jail. She faces charges of uttering a forged document, forgery of bank checks, and organized fraud over $50,000.00.
The scheme began in April of 2018. The bookkeeper began writing checks on the business account to herself. She forged the signature of the construction business owner on the checks that she stole. She cashed the checks and claimed the cash for herself.
The company caught on to the embezzlement scheme after noticing that the bookkeeper would not bring checks to them to sign in numerical order. The owners of the business used their bank’s website to view the checks that were not brought to them for endorsement. At that juncture, they realized their long-time employee was stealing money from the company.
The investigators determined that she would write checks out to subcontractors who perform services for the company. Additionally, the owner of the company learned that the bookkeeper altered the payment amounts on personal checks he wrote. She pocketed the difference.
The owners of the company knew that their employee fell ill. She also developed a cocaine habit.
Their initial review of the amount stolen revealed that $55,000.00 was stolen. However, as the owners continued to investigate, they uncovered about another fifteen thousand dollars missing from their accounts.
The owners confronted her with the results of their internal investigation. The owners told the investigating deputies that the woman admitted to taking the money and promised to repay the company for its losses.
Embezzlement Laws in Florida
Embezzlement is a theft committed by a person who is entrusted by another to control, manage, or monitor the property. Only a person with access to the money or property of another, but not ownership of that money or property can commit embezzlement. Put simply, therefore, embezzlement is stealing by a person in a position of trust.
Florida law defines embezzlement more broadly as theft. Florida Statutes 2019, section 812.014 defines theft as the intentional deprivation of the right of another to use property temporarily or permanently. The nature and monetary value of the property stolen determine the severity of the charge.
Under Florida law, grand theft in the second degree is a second-degree felony punishable of up to fifteen years incarcerated in the state’s prisons. To qualify as grand theft in the second degree, the value of the property stolen must exceed $20,000.00 but be less than $100,000.00. The theft of property of an amount exceeding $100,000.00 is grand theft in the first degree and is considered a first-degree felony. The maximum punishment for a first-degree felony is 30 years in state prison.