Wendy Askins catches an orthodontic embezzler

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Prosperident stops a thief cold

Supervising Examiner Wendy Askins, CFE

Wendy Askins is Prosperident's longest serving investigator, and there are a long list of thieves who would have preferred never to encounter Wendy.

One of those thieves is Lisa Anselm, who, as a result of Wendy's work, was charged and convicted of multiple counts of embezzlement.

Some of the charges against Lisa Anselm


Lisa's victim, a prominent Virginia orthodontist, was kind enough to record some video where he discusses what happened, how it affected him, and what he is doing differently going forward


Transcript It frankly was not on my radar in my practice for the first several years. I was very busy focusing on the patients and trying to establish myself in the dental community. I had this very high level of trust in my financial systems in the office. And because I had bought a practice just a year and a half after residency, I really had not learned how to run a practice from the financial aspect, started working with an orthodontic consultant who was kind of a game changer in helping me establish less of a mom and pop business and more of a professional level practice. I gave this very high level of trust to this office administrator And I frankly turned my attention away from the business in terms of what was happening with the financial resources of the business as they flowed through the practice. My office manager just started behaving differently and not coming to work every day and acting depressed and anxious. staying after work a lot and being sick a lot. I felt like there was something going on with her. As the investigation continued, I was floored, absolutely floored by the extent of the embezzlement and the breadth of complexity of the multiple strategies being used in payroll and the company credit cards and the cash payments that were being diverted and the mirroring of things that we, like vendors and suppliers that we use, there were parallel accounts set up so that the credit card statement would have recognizable vendors, but those purchases were actually going toward personal purchases. And Amazon, there was an Amazon account that was opened for the office, but it wasn't actually the office account. It was under the control of the office manager. It's every conceivable way of stealing funds from the office. And also there was a line of credit and another loan Multiple loans were opened under the auspices of this renovation, but the line of credit, like the money was being stolen. It was basically a credit. I was being mugged. One thing that embezzlers do, as I've learned, is that they convince the doctor that they're irreplaceable. And that's an absolute red flag for people that know better and are alert to this. And believe me, I beat myself up about all of these different weaknesses that I had and were obvious to her. But she saw that I was watching certain things and not other things. And honestly, the embezzlement went on for about five years. It just, things were not adding up to me, but she would always say, Oh, it's, it's understandable. Or, you know, the costs have gone up and you have an associate and we're just, the overhead is different. And I said, well, where's the pie chart? Show me the overhead. And she was very evasive about that because a lot of the numbers that we were turning into the, um, the consultant and the numbers that she was showing me were all either about the income of the practice, which I believe was correct, but the expenses and all these other things were actually fabricated. I was being shown secondary documentation. This was reports, fabricated reports, and the primary documents of the bank statements, credit card statements, payroll details, those were dismissed as, oh, you don't want to get in the weeds with that. I'll just show you the numbers. These are the numbers. We're doing great. Let's just keep working. And you see the patients I'll work with, with everything else. And I felt vulnerable. And I asked my accountants for an audit just to because there was a lot of money flowing in and out of the practice for the purpose of the you know, the debt service on this expansion renovation. I just wanted to make sure there were eyes on all of those transactions. And it was weird. I don't remember their response precisely, but they basically declined. Like that wasn't really their role, I guess, in their eyes. And years later, when the embezzlement was discovered. I spoke with David Harris at Prosperident and he enlightened me to the fact that accountant services are in a tiered system of responsibility. Accountants are really there to properly handle the numbers that you provide them. They're not there to verify your numbers or to babysit your practice. Because of the QuickBooks that we were sending to them with all of the expenses and the credit card statements and the checks and everything, I assumed that they were aware or at least watching something. And I just, I don't know why I thought that. I just didn't understand. When Prosperity asked me to provide access to certain things, payroll and They actually did a mirror image of my server eventually and looked at everything in my practice management software. And as the investigation continued, I was floored, absolutely floored by the extent of the embezzlement and the breadth of complexity of the multiple strategies being used in payroll and the company credit cards and the cash payments that were being diverted. I learned this lesson the hardest way possible. And that is that doctors tend to focus on new patient starts, referrals, basically the production end of the practice. Finances, once money comes into the practice and is flowing through the practice with the accounting systems, with accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, there are a lot of places where you can spring leaks, both through negligence or just not following up with you know, insurance delinquencies, patient delinquency. There are lots of little procedural things that can make a leaky barrel problem, which is about competency and doing things the right way and on time. And I did worry about those things a little bit, and I would obviously keep up with those numbers from the financial coordinator. But I didn't think of fraud as being one of those things. Dealing with embezzlement is about prevention. I'm part of an unenviable fraternity in my state with two other orthodontists that have had this happen to them. All three of us are speaking to our local societies to try to help others. You won't get your money back. You won't get your sleep back. Just prevent this from happening. Put the safeguards in place. Please work with Prosperident. I'm not aware of anyone else that does this in the way that they do it and helps you.
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