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Rip-Off Alert: Friend becomes foe after embezzlement

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 8/27/2013 6:53 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- An embezzlement scheme of almost a million dollars is discovered, and the thief was a friend and colleague of the victims.

In this Rip-Off Alert, find out how something such as this can happen and get some important tips on how to avoid being scammed.

The affected firm was an environmental engineering company specializing in hazardous materials cleanup.

“The foundation of this business was built on trust,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Tammy Mayle. Its founders “worked at previous companies together. They started a business together. They trusted each other.”

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

And the company paid.

“In our case, there was money sitting there for the taking, and the one individual felt he could help himself to it,” said one of the fraud victims.

“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,” Mayle said.

The problem was that the company had no checks and balances.

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

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,” a victim said.

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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