A veterinary example — PA office manager accused of embezzling $355k from animal hospital

Trisha Lynn McLaughlin
Trisha Lynn McLaughlin

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP – A Warminster woman is under arrest, charged with embezzling more than $355,790 from the Newtown Veterinary Hospital.

Trisha Lynn McLaughlin, 36, of East Street Road in Warminster, turned herself into police on Thursday after Detective Charles Palko Jr. filed charges that she misappropriated funds from her employer.

McLaughlin is facing first degree felony charges for dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, second degree felony forgery for unauthorized act in writing and third degree felonies of theft by unlawful taking or disposition and receiving stolen property.

McLaughlin was processed at Northampton Township Police headquarters and was arraigned via video by Judge Donald Nasshorn. She was released ROR on $250,000 bail.

Detective Palko began his investigation in Feb. 2012 when the owner of the Newtown Veterinary Hospital (N.V.H.) came to police headquarters to report that McLaughlin, in her capacity as the practice manager at N.V.H., had embezzled funds in the range of $80,000.

McLaughlin was hired in March 2001 as a senior veterinary technician and in March 2006 became the practice manager at N.V.H.

In her capacity as practice manager, McLaughlin was responsible for meeting financial objectives and for accounts payable, payroll and budget. Her position provided access, use and control of N.V.H. accounts, including bank and credit card accounts and control of N.V.H. accounting ledger and/or software. She was fired in Dec. 2011 because misappropriation of funds was discovered that started at $3,000, but quickly grew, police said.

In his initial report to law enforcement authorities, police said the owner/victim told police that checks would be written out to McLaughlin from the business and she would cash them. She also would over pay herself in the pay-roll, police said.

The company charge card also was used to make personal purchases such as fuel oil for her home, police said. In addition, police said McLaughlin purchased gift certificates that were to be used as gifts for other employees but failed to give them to the appropriate employees.

In Dec. 2011 the owner of N.V.H was notified by his bank of a discrepancy involving McLaughlin personally withdrawing $4,700 from his Money Market account without his authorization.

While conducting a year-long investigation, Detective Palko discovered that many of the financial records had been destroyed by McLaughlin before her employment was terminated.

Police said the owner of N.V.H. advised Det. Palko that he had received numerous correspondences from McLaughlin, via e-mail, regarding her termination. Specifically, McLaughlin denied stealing from N.V.H., but considered herself as borrowing money with intention to pay it back and pleaded with the owner not to go to the authorities or deny her unemployment benefits.

During the course of communication via e-mail, police said the owner inquired about the PayPal account established for N.V.H. for which he did not have the log-in information to access the account. Det. Palko was able to obtain the PayPal records.

A review of the transaction log history by Det. Palko, from Feb. 20, 2008 to Dec. 27, 2011, revealed $16,098.09 in unauthorized transactions. The PayPal transaction log history confirmed that the items were shipped to McLaughlin at her home address in Warminster, police said.

Detective Palko’s review of N.V.H. accounts also revealed discrepancies and misappropriation of funds associated with N.V.H. bank accounts, credit card accounts and payroll. Palko also determined that McLaughlin failed to maintain accurate accounting records, retain past account statements and altered Quick Book entries relating to unauthorized transactions.

Police said unauthorized transactions included the purchase of clothes, shoes, home heating fuel, hair salon and membership fees to the Newtown Athletic Club.

Monthly bank statements, police said, also revealed payments being made for additional accounts with Verizon and PECO, not affiliated with N.V.H., as well as car payments for the vehicle McLaughlin was driving.

McLaughlin also maintained N.V.H. business accounts with BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club, and Costco and was the principal purchaser of paper products and cleaning supplies relating to the day-to-day operations of N.V.H.

Det. Palko obtained purchase history reports from the wholesale clubs, itemizing the products purchased by McLaughlin using the wholesale club ID number. The bulk of the items purchased, police said, consisted of household products, perishable groceries, electronics, baby supplies, clothing and gift cards in $100 and $200 amounts.

Based on the itemized purchase history reports, Det. Palko determined that McLaughlin made $50,601.58 in unauthorized purchases from wholesale clubs, for goods and services that did not benefit the Newtown Veterinary Hospital.

Police said additional illegal activities committed by McLaughlin include inflating the pay rates for herself, her husband and other select employees, not withholding payroll deductions for medical and dental benefits for herself and her husband along with numerous other deductions that were not withheld from the paychecks were discovered. A review of accounts also uncovered that McLaughlin’s mismanagement of the business daycare center caused a loss of revenue discrepancies that totaled $85,194.77, police said.

As Detective Palko continued his extensive investigation he exposed numerous other fraudulent financial activities that led back to McLaughlin and the $355,790.00 listed as the total loss suffered by N.V.H.

Do you have questions about embezzlement?  Give Prosperident a call at 888-398-2327 or send an email to requests@dentalembezzlement.com

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