Sometimes being too trusting can end up costing you a lot of money.
Medford dentist Sandra Carmeci found this out to the tune of more than $160,000 after her bookkeeper reportedly forged checks and racked up credit card bills in the office’s name over the course of several years.
Medford financial detectives believe Jodi Lynne Setzer, 42, of Central Point, made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars from small businesses in Medford, Phoenix and Rainier by ingratiating herself with the owners.
Winning their trust turned into a lucrative scheme after Setzer allegedly began financing her lifestyle, which included building a pool in her yard and buying clothes, with allegedly embezzled funds, police said.
“Unfortunately, it’s this trust that makes people victims,” Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak said.
Carmeci employed Setzer as her bookkeeper for nearly 10 years. During that time, the two became close, Carmeci said.
“I knew her kid and her family,” she said. “It’s been a difficult year. The deception is the hardest thing, when you find out a friend is not a friend.”
Carmeci became suspicious when some red flags appeared in the practice’s business accounts. A check of the books turned up about $80,000 in embezzled funds siphoned off the business and into Setzer’s wallet.
“At first I didn’t even want to call the police because I knew her and her kid so well,” Carmeci said. “We eventually worked out a deal where she paid me back.”
However, more and more losses were found over time, which eventually added up to more than $160,000, Carmeci said.
The last straw came when Carmeci found that thousands of illegal painkiller prescriptions were collected by Setzer. Carmeci called the police after that discovery.
Meanwhile, Stephen Petersen, a Rainier attorney, was digging through his own books and finding close to $300,000 in losses. He, too, had hired Setzer as a bookkeeper for his law business.
“Honestly, I don’t know how much she got me for,” Petersen said. “I just knew that I should have been doing better than I was. Come to find out, I was losing a lot of money.”
Detectives also contacted the Phoenix-based Noel Lesley Event Services, where Setzer had worked as a bookkeeper for a few months in 2011. In that time, police allege, Setzer wrote several fraudulent checks and made unauthorized fund transfers, with a loss of $39,200.
Financial detectives believe all of this could have been avoided if the business owners had installed a checks-and-balances system in the bookkeeping process.
“You never want just one person handling your finances,” Mak said. “And if you do, then you want to have regular, random audits of the books to see if everything is copacetic.”
Both Carmeci and Petersen said they never noticed the money disappearing from their businesses because the thefts were made gradually, over a period of years. In the end, it added up.
“When you’re running a practice and have a family, you sometimes don’t have time to look closely at the books,” Carmeci said. “But I won’t make that mistake again.”
Setzer faces a number of felony charges, including 10 counts of aggravated theft and first-degree theft. She is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on March 18 in Jackson County Circuit Court
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Embezzler gets three years for scheme
A Central Point bookkeeper was sentenced to three years in prison and was ordered to pay back more than a quarter-million dollars she embezzled from local business owners who entrusted her while unwittingly fueling her lavish lifestyle.A Central Point bookkeeper was sentenced to three years in prison and was ordered to pay back more than a quarter-million dollars she embezzled from local business owners who entrusted her while unwittingly fueling her lavish lifestyle. Under a plea deal, Jodi Lynne Setzer, 42, pleaded guilty Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court to two counts of aggravated identity theft, six counts of aggravated theft and two counts of first-degree theft stemming from two different cases.In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Lorenzo Mejia ordered Setzer to serve two years’ probation and to pay more than $263,000 to the bilked business owners, who include a local event planner and a dentist who considered her a good friend. Setzer was taken into custody immediately after the brief 11 a.m. hearing. Most embezzlement cases like these are tied to people with drug, alcohol or gambling problems, but those vices were not in Setzer’s background, Jackson County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Markiewicz said outside of court.In Setzer’s case, she skimmed money from her employers to live a few notches above what she could earn legitimately, Markiewicz said. She had a child at one time in a Medford private school and had a pool built in her backyard, according to investigators. “It was feeding a lifestyle that she really didn’t have enough money for,” Markiewicz said. “In a lot of these cases, you have people who tend to have their vices,” he said. “She’s not the typical person to do this.”However, Setzer’s case started as a drug investigation in July 2012 when the dentist for whom she worked as a bookkeeper suspected Setzer was using the dentist’s identity to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for the drug hydrocodone, commonly known by the trade name Vicodin. Investigators later learned through the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that she had forged about 150 prescriptions for about 7,800 hydrocodone doses. When she and husband Jason Setzer were arrested two weeks later, police found no illegal prescription drugs in their possession, so their case was handled as theft and record tampering, Markiewicz said. Investigators discovered Setzer used electronic transfers from her employer’s account to pay her personal bills, investigators said. That employer alone saw almost $205,000 siphoned from her business account by Setzer between April 2007 and April 2012, according to prosecutors. Setzer worked for that dentist for 13 years, prosecutors said. “She was stealing money from a lot of people for a lot longer time than she was getting hydrocodone,” Markiewicz said. Setzer’s bank records also revealed that she stole money in similar fashion from two other victims, identified by investigators as a local event planner and a Rainier attorney. Jason Setzer has an Aug. 13 court hearing scheduled for a change of plea in his case. He faces four counts of aggravated identity theft for his alleged part in the prescription medication fraud, court records show. Content retrieved from http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20130625/News/306250332