Blank Check

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A clock with tax time sticky note and calculator on the desk.

Giving someone a blank check is like giving them financial freedom. The recipient fills in the dollar amount and the owner of the checking account pays up. (Obviously, this is a dangerous position to be in if you are the owner of the checking account.) A longtime employee of a Columbia, S.C., insurance agency forged signatures on more than 300 blank checks belonging to a client of the agency. She not only got into major trouble for embezzlement, but also for tax fraud when she didn’t pay taxes on the illegal income.

The 57-year-old fraudster from Saluda worked for the agency for three decades (That’s quite a breach of trust). For at least the last 11 years, she forged signatures on checks drawn on the client’s checking account, which was under the care of her employer, according to the case against her. When the insurance company found out she embezzled $611,845.39, she was fired immediately. (Aren’t you dying to find out what she used more than $600,000 for?) The South Carolinian used the embezzled funds to pay her bills, car payments and her mortgage. (Everyone should be so lucky to have $600,000 in blank checks.)

Court documents reveal that today’s fraudster eluded detection by removing pages from bank statements with copies of the forged checks and recorded false entries in accounting records. (Sounds like she was good at hiding her crime since it went on for more than a decade.) Investigators found that she also lied on her tax returns over five years and neglected to pay $78,892.

The Saluda woman pleaded guilty to tax fraud after admitting she did not pay taxes on the more than $600,000 she embezzled (It’s hard to get that kind of cash past the IRS). When she signed her confession, she agreed to repay the amount she had stolen. (The government has frozen her bank account to collect proceeds from the sale of her home. She also has a collection agency after her for an unpaid $5,663.60 credit card bill.) At sentencing, she faces three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. (You can be sure that most of the checks written by today’s fraudster soon will be made payable to Uncle Sam. No more blank checks).

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, “Saluda woman pleads guilty to tax fraud after embezzling $612K” published by Index-Journal on May 7, 2019.

Brenda Rodgers spent more than three decades working at an insurance company.

But the 57-year-old Saluda woman’s employment came to an abrupt end in May 2016 — after her employer determined she had embezzled more than $600,000.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.