Former NC medical office administrator embezzles $900k; going to prison

Editor’s note — as you may know, we normally confine ourselves to investigating dental office embezzlement.  However, we do provide reporting on significant embezzlements in medical offices because the methodologies employed have considerable commonality.

Mallard embezzled almost $900,000 from women’s center


This story should have said she owed $697,714. Mallard paid $195,444 in restitution of the $893,157.41 she embezzled. The insurance company for Eastern Carolina Women’s Center paid about $100,000.

Original story

Betty Small Hurley Mallard, a 62-year-old accused of embezzling nearly $900,000 from a medical practice, pleaded guilty Monday in Craven County Superior Court and was sentenced to five to seven years in prison.

Mallard, a former administrator at Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, was facing six Class C felony embezzlement charges and up to 60 years in prison.

Judge John Nobles consolidated the charges and gave her the lesser sentence.

Nobles said the case was difficult in many ways and wasn’t like normal criminal court cases. Someone age 62 would be devastated going to prison, he said.

“I guess I could give her 30 years,” he said, “but I wonder how many in here think she would live 30 years.”

Nobles said after listening to the attorneys and doctors from Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, the crime was serious and Mallard needed to go to prison.

“I recognize we’re dealing with somebody with serious mental problems,” he said. “I recognize she has made some restitution, and I recognize the damage she has done to the practice.”

Before passing sentence, Nobles said, “I do hope you’re able to survive it.”

District Attorney Scott Thomas said while he would have liked to see more active prison time for Mallard, he understood the judge’s reasoning.

“The defendant came to court, pleaded guilty, and paid partial restitution,” Thomas said. “We asked for a higher level of an active sentence and the judge decided not to give the highest sentence. But 60 to 84 months in prison for a 62-year-old is still a significant amount of time in prison, especially for somebody with no criminal record, no prior charges or convictions.”

Michael Mills, Mallard’s attorney, said the embezzlement started in September 2005 and continued to November 2015. The aftermath cost Mallard her home, a lot she owned, a beach home, and her retirement savings, he said.

Mills said he saw the embezzlement as one crime instead of the six with which she was charged. But Tonya Montanye, a prosecutor working with Thomas, said when Mallard was working at Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, she was writing checks to herself and giving herself raises to which she was not entitled. When she left the center, she had a $150,000 annual salary.

Co-workers grew suspicious when they saw pictures of an extravagant cruise ship suite she stayed in and began wondering how she could afford it, Montanye said.

 Mallard’s large spending habit included taking $22,000 from the center to pay off one month of her personal credit card bills. In six years, from 2011 to 2015, she took $686,451 from the center to pay on her personal credit card that had monthly charges from $500 to $1,000. She made $35,230.13 in unauthorized purchases from the company credit card, Montanye said.

“She had a very extravagant lifestyle,” she said.

That lifestyle included spending $2,775 at Peacock Plume, making seven purchases one day buying shoes that cost up to $398, Montanye said.

Bill Faison, who was also representing Mallard, said she had a college education and liked working at the center and everyone there liked her.

“But plain and simple, Betty is mentally ill,” Faison said. “It is unfortunate. … it acted out on her job. She spent the money on such silly things: handbags … just nothing. Just threw her life away for nothing.”

But Mallard was not a threat to anyone, Faison said.

The person signing the checks shouldn’t be keeping the books, but that wasn’t the case, he said.

“Because of her mental illness, she has done a terrible thing,” Faison said. “She is now broke, destitute, has given it all up and now faces whatever your honor thinks should be done.”

Dr. Rob Patterson of Eastern Carolina Women’s Center said Mallard’s actions harmed the practice. Two doctors had to resign because they could not afford to pay themselves while trying to compensate for the embezzlement.

Fifty employees were also affected and morale was harmed, which possibly harmed patient care, Patterson said.

Mallard, wearing a blue dress, stood before the judge.

“I would like to express my deepest regret and remorse to Eastern Carolina Women’s Center,” Mallard said in a quiet voice. “I take full responsibility for my actions. … I have great respect for the practice, physicians and employees and felt a great sense of loyalty toward the group.”

Mallard said she realized she had mental health issues that cause her irrational behavior.

“I’m deeply saddened to have disappointed those who placed their faith and confidence in me,” she said.

As part of her sentencing, Nobles ordered Mallard to get a mental health assessment at the Department of Corrections and to reimburse Eastern Carolina Women’s Center the remaining balance of more than $600,000 owed in restitution.

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