The financial services industry was the most frequent victim and experienced the greatest losses from major embezzlement schemes last year, and nearly one in four involved credit unions, according to the 2012 Marquet Report on Embezzlement that was released Tuesday.
The report, which analyzed 528 major embezzlement cases in which at least $100,000 was misappropriated, found that 15% (about 80 cases) involved financial services firms but did not include insurance-related entities. Of that 15%, according to the report, 23% (about 18 cases) involved credit unions.
In 2011, only eight of the 58 financial services embezzlement cases involved credit unions.
“The financial institutions are always at the top of the list in terms of both the frequency of embezzlement cases and the volume of losses, and credit unions in particular seem to be hard hit,” said the report’s author Christopher Marquet, founder of Marquet International Ltd., a Wellesley, Mass., investigative, litigation support and due diligence firm.
Marquet’s report said the 2012 fraud cases involving credit unions probably resulted from “their relatively less-stringent control structure than commercial banks and other financial institutions.”
For example, the report highlights the case of Sharon Broadway of Toledo, who had been employed as the “manager, secretary, board member and sole employee” of the United Catholic Credit Union in Temperance, Mich.
She was able to siphon a total of $2.1 million for more than 20 years. Michigan prosecutors said Broadway managed to conceal her crimes through a complex money-laundering scheme involving forged checks and multiple aliases.
The credit union was shuttered last year, and Broadway was sentenced to 20 years in prison in January.
“This case illustrates that when you have what appears to be zero business controls, you are inviting trouble,” the report reads. “We note that the Broadway case in only one in six that exceeded 20 years in duration.”
In addition to Broadway’s case, Credit Union Times reported on four other multimillion dollar fraud and embezzlement cases in 2012 including:
- Ignacio Morales, former CEO of the $7 million Borinquen FCU, pled guilty to embezzling $2.3 million and causing the Philadelphia financial institution to collapse.
- Theresa “Teri” Portillo, former manager of the shuttered $2 million Women’s Southwest FCU, who pleaded guilty to stealing $3.4 million from the Dallas-based credit union.
- William Liddle, former business lending vice president of AEA FCU in Yuma, Ariz., and his wife Rhonda Liddle, were found guilty of participating in a business loan kickback scheme. They were ordered to pay more than $25 million in restitution.
- Michael Ross Franco, a former loan officer for My Community FCU in Midland, Texas, who pled guilty for defrauding the cooperative out of $4 million in an auto loan kickback scam.
Though tough economic conditions can drive people to steal, the Marquet Report’s data suggest that the primary motivating factor for perpetrators of major long-term embezzlement is to obtain and maintain a lifestyle far grander than what they would otherwise be able to attain.
“In many cases, the thefts actually began in good economic times, while they continued over many years,” the report said.
“We have also noted that during boom years, embezzlement can easily go unnoticed since the victim organization may be making healthy profits and the perpetrator begins by taking relatively small, regular amounts that fall under the radar,” the report said. “Many embezzlers accelerate their theft over time, leading to a higher probability of getting caught.”
Second to the financial services industry, government agencies and municipalities accounted for 11% of embezzlement cases last year and 9% involved other non-profit organizations. Health care, professional services, real estate and religious entities combined for 22% of embezzlement cases last year.
The report also found that 58% of embezzlement incidents involved women. Men embezzlers, however, stole nearly three times as much as women. More than 67% of embezzlers held a bookkeeping or finance position.
The most common embezzlement scheme involved forged or unauthorized company checks, while in nearly 33 % of the cases the embezzlers reportedly had a gambling issue, according to the report.