When Bank of America hired Elaina Patterson, they had no idea she would end up as the poster person defining one of the worst cases of employee embezzlement in recent years; Patterson ended up stealing more than 6 million dollars from the company’s investors and customers.
Working for the company from 1999 until 2011, Patterson was stealing investor funds, often from elderly clients of the bank, and would sometimes use money stolen from recent transactions to repay accounts she had stolen from earlier.
After repayments to customers and investors, her net theft surpassed $2.1 million. This post discusses the case and how all kinds of employers can avoid these situations in the first place.
Bank of America hired investigators to discover the extent of the theft, and law enforcement officials were brought in to provide justice for the more than 30 victims who were affected by Patterson’s actions.
The behavior and actions of one employee, as evidenced in this case, can have a monumental impact on a business, large or small. While Bank of America likely has the resources necessary to rectify this situation, this type of employee theft and deceit could potentially ruin a smaller business that relies on the trust of the local population.
Preventing employee theft
The best way to deal with employee theft is to prevent it before it has a chance to begin. How can you possibly prevent theft when employees like Patterson work with large amounts of money every day and have access to customer accounts and information? These employees will not be able to perform in their roles if they do not have access to these resources.
One option is to take extra steps to ensure that you have employees on staff that you can trust. This can be accomplished by performing background checks, including personal and criminal record checks. These background checks can provide employers with the peace of mind necessary to form stronger, trusting relationships with employees, reducing the need to restrain or aggressively monitor the staff.
Not all background checks are equal
When you are screening potential employees, you might do as little as running their name through a search engine to paying for an employee background check. If you want a truly exhaustive check performed, you will need a highly experienced and well-equipped PI firm.
While other background check services may only check a couple of public records resources, our team goes much more in-depth to explore the history of your current or potential team members. In addition to collecting public records, our private investigators also gather many other types of information, including:
- Businesses owned
- Credit history
- Character references
- Verification of education and work history
- Twenty year address history
- Obtaining or confirming subject’s SS# and date of birth
- SS# or date of birth being used other than their own
- Name of anyone using their SS# including their address of record
- All Statewide real property
- U.S. Consumer Public Filing Index which includes bankruptcies, notice of defaults, judgments, tax liens and problem with the Internal Revenue Service
- Corporate and Limited Partnership information
- Uniform Commercial Code Index
- Civil (plaintiff and defendant) and Criminal (Felonies and Misdemeanors) records in the city, county and States available
- Fictitious Business Name index
- Names and addresses of neighbors and businesses for interview purposes
Using the support of a skilled private investigator, you can go beyond a preliminary background check and explain gaps in an employment history, determine if an employee lied on an application, and discover if their financial history includes questionable behavior.
Your business should definitely used a private investigator that is skilled in the art of interview and interrogation. The PI can use data collected in the background investigation to determine the truth and veracity of the candidate through a skilled question and answer session. Don’t be afraid to use this tool because you are afraid the process will scare off the candidate. Many times when advised that just an interview will be conducted, the person simply doesn’t even show up.
These are all pieces of information that can help you really gain an understanding of an employee’s character and trustworthiness. By working with only dependable team members, you can reduce the risk that your business will be the victim of millions of dollars worth of employee theft.