Christine Geary gets a conviction in a large Canadian embezzlement

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Prosperident stops a thief cold

Supervising Examiner Christine Geary, CFE

After a successful career as a trainer for a major practice management software and completion of her degree in forensic accounting, Christine joined Prosperident as a Fraud Examiner.  Quickly promoted into her current supervisory role, Christine both handles some of Prosperident's more challenging cases and plays a key role in the training of new investigators.

One interesting case that recently concluded involved Christine conducting an investigation at a large dental practice near Toronto, Canada.  Her work resulted in both a criminal conviction of the thief, and partial financial recovery for the practice owner, Dr. Rob vanGalen.  As a way of helping prevent other dentists from becoming embezzlement victims, Dr. vanGalen and Christine generously agreed to share some of the events in this case and lessons for other practice owners.



Transcript To help out in the office as the office had grown, we actually took on an old family friend of my wife and I's as quote unquote a bookkeeper. And she had brought it to our attention that we weren't making cash deposits to the bank accounts. So that was where the sort of investigation began. Mostly from the track record. So we did a bit of research. My wife, when she suspected that there was a concern, but once we had a talk with David, we were impressed with the background, the level of training, and the success rate of what had happened for other people, unfortunately, that this had happened to. We're very impressed right from the start. She had extreme knowledge with embezzlement situations from the past. Our experience with David as well, right from the start was very good. He was our initial contact when we thought that there was possible embezzlement in the office. After my first meeting, I was pretty sure we were going to find embezzlement. Dr. Van Galen has other offices and I believe the suspect was already confirmed to have embezzled from one of the other locations. So we were expecting to find the same. A loan just in cash deposits. It was a well over $200,000. But the number that we sort of are figuring on is about $800,000, it could be much higher. That's just sort of the ballpark of where we think it was. So it was very disheartening. It was very, very difficult, and it's still to this day is very, very difficult on me physically and mentally because I treated Tanya, and I'll use the expression loosely, as my work wife. I trusted her wholeheartedly. She'd been a part of my practice for 25 years. So when I found out that this was going on and to the level that it was going on into the mischievousness of what was going on, it was very, very difficult and was very difficult on us as a family and in terms of our personal relationship together. You know, I was angry when I found the embezzlement. When I was looking at especially the credit card, the personal use of the credit card, I was blown away. I was appalled at not only the amount of money that was spent, but how it was spent. For instance, I can't imagine walking into a jewelry store with my office credit card and spending $7,000 or $8,000 in one pop. And she had actually spent over $30,000 that I found in jewelry stores. We changed our systems in place in terms of who's responsible for what. We don't have the same people depositing cash. We don't have the same people reconciling the cash. And it's not just cash. We had one person doing all of that information. Depositing cash, reconciling the cash, that we actually have two people doing her job, plus we have managers in each location, and the offices have never done so well. Basically, the person taking in the cash should also not be the same person depositing the cash, should also not be the same person at the end of the month. And that's where we made the mistake. We put so much trust in one person that she was not only the person who was accepting cash at the front desk at the administrative end of things, not only the same person depositing the cash, but also the same person reconciling things at the end of the month. And those steps need to be broken up. Verified trust. We have systems in place that each person is accountable for each part of that process. We did recover some money. We were a little bit disheartened, unfortunately, with the criminal proceedings. We got sort of a slap on the wrist. I think part of the reason that that happened was She's got some sort of leukemia or cancer. Because of that, she basically got what's called a bond where she had to pay $500 into the courts and isn't allowed to work with anybody in terms of personal or business finance for a three-year period. Don't let anybody else open up your mail. We had an American Express credit card that I didn't even know I had. Purchases on that American Express credit card were quote unquote business purchases, but they weren't. Don't let anybody have that much power. Open your own mail. Look at your bank accounts. Look at your visa statements. Like, I mean, the way that the office runs now is unbelievably different. That's the way things should be. One little, you give somebody just a little bit of space and they'll jump all over it. The charges on the credit cards specifically, I think, would have been very obvious. Just a screening of the statements as they come in, just to see, does anything not look legit? And I think the biggest stumbling block of why something's not done about it is embarrassment. I think that in the eyes of your colleagues, you'll look like, oh, what kind of business is this guy running that he wasn't on top of this or this had happened to them? Well, it shouldn't be that. It shouldn't be that you feel embarrassed about it because it does happen. I mean, that's part of life. But the whole fact is that if we don't get it out there to talk about it and talk about how you can get you know, around these things or get professionals like Christine and David from Prosperident to help you through it. Don't think that it can't happen to you because unfortunately, as David said, it happens to one in three dentists. The inappropriate credit card purchases started almost right from the start. Once we gave her that position of being in a position of power, it was abused. And again, I'm not a nasty person to work for. If she'd come to me and said, look, and I'm a little tight on cash, can I borrow some money? I would have lent her some money.


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