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Employee Theft

Jan 31st, 2014 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick Kemper PhotoEmployee theft is one of the most disturbing challenges business owners face. Usually, what bothers company owners most is the betrayal and disloyalty, rather than the actual monetary loss. You might get stolen money paid back, but getting back trust is a much tougher process.

I’ve busted a few inside-thieves in my day. One person who worked for me copied a customer’s credit card info, ran their card a second time, and pocketed cash from her till. We might not have caught it because the cardholder lived in Europe and was visiting the U.S. A month later we heard from them. The evidence was sitting right in our office file cabinet the whole time.

Of course, she was really stealing from someone else, but we were implicated by association. We ended up refunding both credit card charges, and I don’t know if we collected from the ex-employee. On another occasion, one of our drivers – I’ll call him Driver A – found $300 cash lying on a desk at one of our remote storage facilities after closing hours. He called the manager for that facility, who asked him to hide the cash under a desk calendar. Now, right there we see imbecility in action. Driver A happened to be a former manager in the company, so we have two managers who can’t seem to figure out that the better option would have been to take the money to our 24-hour central location where it could be put in a safe. You know, for safe-keeping.

Now, while Driver A is conducting this high-level strategy with the manager, Driver B and Driver C come into the office where he is talking on the phone. After he hangs up, he tells them both what he found, and what he’s been asked to do with it. More imbecility in action. Now we have three drivers and a manager who know that there is $300 cash hidden under a desk calendar in a remote location that is accessible to all company employees.

Fast-forward to morning: the Manager arrives at the remote location, lifts up the desk calendar and … no money. Surprise! So now, because of carelessness and outright negligence, we have four employees under suspicion – all three drivers and the manager.

All three drivers denied taking the money, of course, although all three returned to that facility later that night, on multiple occasions, sometimes alone, to tow in cars. The manager was never asked if he took the money.

This became an occasion of “putting the foot down,” because we then hired a private investigator to interview each driver, the first time we had ever done that. The manager was not interviewed. After conducting the interview, the investigator told me that, based on the contradictions in his story and his mannerisms during the interview, he thought that Driver B had stolen the money. I confronted Driver B, who continued to deny it. Our company owner then had a long talk with Driver B, and the occasion became one of “picking the foot back up” when the owner decided that Driver B was not lying. No one lost their jobs. No money was ever paid back.

Later on down the road, Driver A was let go for failing multiple drug screens, Driver B was let go for lying about damaging vehicles and Driver C was let go because he could not pass a background check for a local municipality due to a past criminal record related to the theft of money from an employer. So, maybe they all split the money, I don’t know.

We had another incident a few years later at another remote facility. A low-security safe was broken open on a weekend and approximately $2,000 cash was taken. None of the tow invoices were taken, which was interesting. A garage door was found partially open on a Sunday evening, and the theft was then reported by Driver D.

Turns out Driver D and Driver E were at that facility together that morning. By that time we had installed GPS units in the trucks, so we were able to verify this. Then Driver E left, and Driver D stayed at the lot for an hour before leaving. No other company vehicles were registered at that location until Driver D returned to find the garage door open later that night.

Driver D reported suspicious behavior from the owner of the impounded vehicle he had released Saturday night. He reported the vehicle owner had been “looking around” like he was “trying to find a way to break in.” His theory was that this vehicle owner had gotten into the garage door because someone forgot to leave the screwdriver lock in place, broke open the safe and took the money.

One interesting detail was that we had a security camera in the office, with a long-play tape recorder hidden in a cabinet. Yes, the camera was visible, but the wiring to the cabinet was not. The cabinet had also been broken open, and the VCR, tape and all, was gone as well. Interesting.  Now, the perp might have guessed that there had to be a VCR somewhere in the office, and the locked cabinet was as likely a place as any, but he sure was careful to take only cash, not invoices or credit card receipts.

Also turned out that Driver D had some personal problems that he’d been talking about to other drivers — problems that would have been assuaged by an unexpected financial windfall. This time I did the interviews and I was convinced that Driver D had done the deed, but he denied it, so once again it went before the company owner. After that meeting, the company owner told me he believed the driver. In fact, the driver’s “feelings were hurt” by my accusations, he reported.

I guess I might have been wrong.  Driver D was eventually promoted to manager of that remote location after I left the company. Hopefully he brought in more business for the company to recoup that “loss.”

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper