The below summary is based on a story printed in the WASHINGTON POST


Author: Carol D. Leonnig page A9,
Grayed sections represent Auditors Inc commentary.

Elizabeth Mellen, a former Department of Education contracting employee, stole more than $750,000 in equipment and overtime pay from her federal employer. The tearful 56 year old said by way of an excuse “It was just so easy. It was like someone says you can have all the ice cream you want and you take it all.”

One of our bookkeepers once had a business owner tell her that she didn’t want to know anything about the business end of her business – that the bookkeeper should just do her job – the only problem was that her definition of her job (which included stealing) differed from the owner’s definition.

The U S District Judge sentenced the grandmother to 4 ½ years in prison. The judge gave Mellen the harshest sentence that he could. “The judge said her gifts to sisters, children. . . pulled each one into the criminal conspiracy. You destroyed some 20 members of your family. It’s really sad. Rarely does a sitting judge see an entire family indicted. . . ruined.” In addition, Mellen’s husband was sentenced to 27 months in prison, her son to 16 months and her nephew to 6 months.

This crime uncovered the federal government’s failure to monitor contracts with Verizon. Mellen told the judge that her stealing began small. “Everybody knew how it worked. Everybody understood what was going on. “There’s plenty of blame to go around. . . family members, the government, the telephone company. Hopefully moving forward, the government will learn from this case.”

But I doubt it!! In our guide, we refer to the concept of contributory negligence, which is referred to above. In other words, to the extent that you may it easy for your bookkeeper to steal, you are partially culpable. Does it make you angry that you would be partially responsible for someone else’s crime? OK – so perhaps you are right! But being right in bankruptcy court brings small comfort.