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.
A woman who committed perhaps the single biggest embezzlement ever in Palm Beach County $6.06 million was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to two first-degree felonies Friday.
Linda Corra, 49, of Boca Raton will begin serving the sentence on June 29, followed by 10 years’ probation.
She will remain free on bond until then. If she’s a no-show, her prison sentence will increase to 10 years.
Assistant State Attorney Preston Mighdoll said the amount stolen is the most he has seen in 14 years of prosecuting economic crimes in the county. “It certainly was shocking when the case first came to us,” he said. “It’s astonishing.”
Corra worked as a bookkeeper for about 12 years at the Center for Hematology in Boca Raton.
She had the group of five doctors sign checks that she deposited into her personal bank accounts. She then withdrew money from those accounts and deposited it with other financial institutions. She also bought homes and a boat.
“According to Corra, the doctors had no idea of what they were signing and just trusted her to do the right thing,” Boca Raton police Detective Robert Flechaus wrote in an affidavit in support of her arrest.
Newly married at the time, Corra needed little more than a year to steal such a staggering sum.
Her scheme was exposed after she quit her job in April 2006 and her successor audited the practice’s business accounts.
When questioned by police, Corra admitted what she had done and pledged her cooperation.
She initially was charged with 20 felony counts of grand theft and money laundering. She pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of grand theft of more than $100,000.
Corra’s case is unusual not only for the amount stolen but for the money recovered. Investigators recouped nearly $4.5 million, and Corra will have to make restitution for most of the rest when she gets out of prison. In that respect, her former employer is lucky.
A survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners last year found that about 42 percent of embezzlement victims got back nothing, and 23 percent recouped less than one-quarter of what was stolen.
Corra does not fit the profile of most embezzlers, and that was why so much of the stolen money was recovered.
She had no known addictions or compulsions such as gambling or drug addiction. She didn’t go on wild shopping sprees.
“She appears to have gone through some things in her life that … impacted her sense of security and sense of self-esteem,” said Michael Dutko, Corra’s attorney. “This appears to have been a means to compensate for that. She’s a very nice, kind, generous woman, but became somewhat vulnerable due to some life circumstances.”
Corra saved or invested much of the money she stole. But she also sold her Highland Beach condo and used some of the stolen money for a down payment on her $1.5 million Boca Raton home.
She also bought two Boynton Beach townhouses and a 38-foot boat, and spent $520 a month to lease a Lexus.
She was in the process of buying another townhouse in Hypoluxo and land in North Carolina when she got caught, police said.
Corra has quitclaimed her three-bedroom, three-bath waterfront home to the physicians group.
It’s on the market for nearly $1.7 million.
Once sold, it should provide most of the restitution she agreed to pay.
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