A word of warning for small business owners following sentencing in recent Roaring Fork Valley embezzlement case
A Roaring Fork Valley business owner advises that one can never be too careful when it comes to the potential for employee embezzlement, as she learned the hard way in her own recent case.
“My best advice would be to trust, as most folks are good and honest, but always be on the look out,” Nancy Williams said. “A checks and balance system is necessary, regardless of the personal connection or friendship.”
It was that personal friendship connection that she said came back to bite her and her husband, Keith Williams, owners of Valley Collision in Basalt, two years ago.
“We were betrayed by a dear friend of so many years. You just never know,” Williams said. “Trust, but verify.”
Joanna Hunter, 50, of Glenwood Springs was sentenced in 5th District Court in Eagle County on May 6 to four years in Community Corrections, after she pleaded guilty to multiple counts of theft totaling more than $20,000, as well as identity theft. She was also ordered to pay $27,691 in restitution.
According to documents in the criminal case, Hunter had used bank cards or account transfers to fraudulently transfer money for her personal benefit, then covered it up with false financial statements.
Hunter had worked as the accounts manager for Valley Collision, a car and truck repair shop in Basalt. At the time of her arrest in December 2018, the company’s website noted that she had extensive knowledge in account management and held a legal secretary certification.
Even with such credentials, it’s always good to conduct thorough background checks and verify any such information, and to be sure to have sound accounting system safeguards in place, Williams said.
She also noted that theft from a small business such as hers is much harder to overcome than it is for a large company or governmental entity, which are often targets for insider embezzlement schemes.
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