Our trusted bookkeeper bankrupted our business,
23 employees lost their jobs, my husband had
a heart attack, the insurance company has not
reimbursed us.

This is my story

My husband and I owned a small family business in the construction industry for 10 years in Fenton, Missouri. In our 8th year, we decided to expand, and for the first time we hired a bookkeeper to take over some of the functions we no longer had time to do ourselves. We hired a woman I will call Jane Doe, who we found to be extremely sharp and helpful. She was positive, perky, and funny, and quickly won our hearts. She always seemed to be looking for ways to protect our interests and take on more responsibility. She was meticulously organized. We endearingly called her our "right arm."

Jane worked for us for a year and a half. When our cash flow got tight during a particularly busy time, we starting looking for investors, thinking that being able to fund construction costs in-house would solve the problem. Just as we were about to bring on our first investor, Jane told us she had been offered another job for more money. After 2 weeks notice, she said a tearful goodbye.

Immediately after Jane left, we took over the bookkeeping again ourselves, and my husband discovered a problem. Some funds we thought were still receivables at a title company were not there. We went to pull the bank statements and couldn't locate them. In the process, we discovered all of the cancelled checks and bank statements for the time period that Jane worked were missing.

So, we got copies of a couple of statements from the bank. We found that a large check was deposited, but not entered on our books. We ordered more statements and copies of a few suspicious checks from the bank. When we were sure of what we were looking at, we called the FBI.

Our nightmare had only begun. We spent hundreds of hours piecing together evidence for the FBI, trying to reconstruct our books, responding to creditors, customers, collectors, and lawsuits, and trying to figure out what taxes were paid and what are missing. It became my full time job, except with no pay.

All summer long, we begged the bank for copies of our missing checks so we could file an insurance claim. They never came through. Since we could not reconstruct our books and reimbursement from the insurance company was delayed indefinitely by the bank, we turned down all new business at our main location, hoping we could just complete our existing construction projects and pay our bills when the insurance claim went through.

The FBI traced ATM transactions from Jane's account to three St. Louis area casinos. After Jane was indicted by a federal grand jury, she pleaded guilty to one of three counts, and was released on her own recognizance until sentencing. During those few months, she went out of control. She violated her probation by gambling at the casinos again, tried to steal from another employer, and was arrested in Illinois for shoplifting. At sentencing, Jane told the judge she had a terrible gambling problem, and that she was sorry she hurt her family. She did not apologize to us. The penal code may say the penalty for this type of crime is years but the actual sentencing guidelines often amount to only a few months. Jane got 27 months in federal prison.

The amount of collateral damage from this crime was huge. It was a domino effect. In early October of 2004, we were forced to close the doors of our business. Our inventory and vehicles were repossessed. Our reputation was damaged. Our credit was ruined. We could not continue to help my husband's children with college. Our personal savings were exhausted. We almost lost our home. Our peace of mind and plans for retirement were gone. At the peak of our business, we had about 23 employees, which we had cut down to a skeletal crew at the end. They all lost their jobs.

We faced multiple lawsuits against us for money owed and tax liens because Jane had diverted payments but entered them as paid. We dealt daily with ugly phone calls and letters from creditors.

The stress and emotional impact took its toll. I had to get medication for depression because I was crying all the time. Neither of us could really sleep for several months. My husband was working night and day to try to minimize the damage to everyone. I was busy with the legal mess and piecing together evidence. It strained our marriage. My husband took a new job the next month. We had to file for personal bankruptcy. Then a few months later, my husband had a heart attack. Thankfully, he recovered without major surgery.

When there is a crime such as this, people assume that all you have to do is rely on the laws, insurance, and guarantees to solve things. In real life, it doesn't work like that. We had insurance. It's been 2 years and they have yet to pay. We thought the bank's policies protected our money. They didn't.

You may be wondering, "How did you not see this coming?" It's easy to say that. But if you think gambling addiction
embezzlement couldn't happen to you, you are a prime target. We were a construction company in which large transactions are common. In my research, I found references to the vulnerabilities of doctors, lawyers, auto dealers, small businesses, courts, and non-profit agencies, including churches.

If you are in business, you are at risk of embezzlement. In many small businesses, owners need to keep overheads low and work long hours. When they find competent, hard working, dependable employees who enjoy their job, they are relieved to find someone they can trust, which plays right into the embezzler's hand.

People have asked me how I keep going through this long, life-altering experience. I needed a daily reminder to put this ordeal in perspective. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph told his brothers, "And as for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (NAS)

Please learn from my experience. Casinos promise money, but bring crime and loss to families and communities. Please help Casino Watch stop them.