Medical Practice Management
Jun 24

Embezzlement #3

Another instance of an employee stealing patient copays in a medical practice. The following was excerted from an email I received:

Thanks for your insight into how to handle the embezzlement. I contacted everyone I knew that might have some advice on the situation and then I decided on a quick remedy. Although I knew someone was taking the money, I couldn’t actually prove it was the girl I suspected vs. other employees, or whether it was all of them. All I knew is that the co-pays that were collected weren’t in the deposits that I was given, or in the handwritten daily sheet. I verified it was collected because she entered co-pays into the computer by account, but no one ever verified the actual $$$ deposit against the daily computer close… although the office manager signed off on the deposits as if she did check it. So it was hard to determine who was involved.
But, I figured, if I caught one of them, the rest would fall into place. So after a sleepless night Wednesday, I decided to stage a sting operation using a friend. It was all so EASY. I didn’t tell _____ because he is so upset by the situation anyway, I didn’t want him to tip off anyone (or talk me out of it!) So, during the usual clinic hours, my friend went to pay his account in cash. I told him to take $20’s and to be sure he Xeroxed them so we would have the serial numbers if we needed them. He went to the window and told the "suspect" that he wanted to pay the balance on his account and started counting the $20’s on the counter. He handed her his account statement and $208 and change and she did not offer a receipt, nor did he ask for one. She thanked him, though!! Then we just waited until the end of the day. Since _____ was taking off Friday, he asked for the deposits before he left (at this point I told him what I had planned). So, when she handed the deposits to him, the cash payment was not included. He asked her about it, and she denied ever getting any cash. When he said it was a friend of his, and that he knew he made a payment, she STILL denied it and asked if this friend had a receipt!! Can you believe it?? _____ tried to soften her up and get her to admit it, but she was tough. So, I called my friend to go to the office and confront her about it. Even when he showed up, she still denied it…and again asked if he had a receipt. He said he didn’t have a receipt because she didn’t offer him one, but he said that he had the serial numbers of the money and he knew that he had a witness at the front desk. So he said he was going to call the police and let them sort it out. She STILL didn’t break!! We called the police and got the other girl in the office to admit she saw the cash payment. Our girl didn’t admit it until the police officer explained that we had the evidence, and she was going to jail NOW, unless she admitted to what she did because Dr. _______ kindly offered her that chance. She said she took the $200, but nothing else. The cop assured her we had proof of thousands of dollars missing, so if she wasn’t truthful, he was "cuffing her right now" and she would be looking at 20 years in the "big house"!!! Finally she admitted to taking money for at least the past two years, although she has worked with us for three years. I had originally guessed the amount would be around $30K, but it appears to be less.
So, our choices were to have her booked and taken away, and probably released the next day, or have her sign a confession and a confession/promissory note. This was the option the officer thought would be the best since we didn’t have the total missing, etc. Then, with the confession/promissory note witnessed by the cop, building security, etc, etc, we can file charges later with repayment to us as part of the probation, or whatever we agree upon. I want it to be on her record, my husband is MUCH nicer than me and would forget it if she just paid him back…as if that were even a remote possibility! I think we need to consider it all very carefully. Once we have the total $$$ missing, we can proceed. Her payroll check was issued and she agreed on this document to sign it over as part of her repayment plan (that covers the TWCC issues).
I am not 100% sure that she was working alone, but I don’t think we will know for sure until they are all questioned by the police if/when we file charges against her. If the office manager would have taken the time to look at the daily sheets and daily computer close, it would have been caught immediately. So, as I said before, she is either involved or incredibly stupid/lazy…both serious crimes in my book!!! Since the employees are (were) all such close friends, this has caused major turmoil in the office. It is hard to imagine that we could be considered the "bad guys", (well, probably not Dr. ___, but certainly ME!! I am such a witch!!)… but that has been rumored.
I would like to fire all of them, but I tend to get a bit carried away!! Guess I will just carry on with the "investigation" and decide the fate of everyone else.
So, there’s a story for your book! One tactic that she was using that could be very effective for stealing copays was to take the cash and then list it as a credit card payment. Now, that would balance since the credit card money is deposited directly to the bank, and it is very hard to decipher the monthly statements to see if everything does indeed balance due to misc charges, etc withheld from payments. The credit card transactions need to be totaled and checked each day when the deposit is made to make sure that transactions aren’t missing, or that extra charges were made to another persons card, etc. She also did it with the electronic check machine making it very difficult to track. Difficult, but traceable. Such a clever girl…and such a stupid office manager.
About Reed Tinsley, CPA

As a top advisor to physicians, I help increase practice profits by delivering hands-on, expert medical accounting/tax support, practice counsel, and revenue-building strategies. Read more →