A business founder who appeared on the show Secret Millionaire, was forced to sell his company and lay off six employees, after a newly employed accounts assistant fraudulently stole £35,000 from the business.
Aria Taheri, founder of Manchester-based Velo Systems, said that the fraudulent assistant accountant, Sarah Cunningham, “left a trail of destruction” that led him to selling his business at a loss and laying off six employees.
Cunningham had been working for the company for less than a month when she started to transfer large sums of money from the company account into another account.
She had access to the firm’s banking system but had to seek approval to make payments. As a result, she set up an account with a similar name to a supplier the company often works with, to try and disguise where the money was going.
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However, when she was asked about the missing money from a superior, she claimed her mum had been rushed to hospital and had to leave work unexpectedly.
The court heard that Cunningham had transferred a total of £35,810.10 from the company’s bank account. When the business’ lead accountant realised the sum was missing, he contacted the bank’s fraud department and Cunningham was arrested soon after.
With further investigation, it appeared she had spent a large amount of the money on designer clothes and new electronics, as the police recovered “clothing, electrical items and receipts for further purchases, totalling very large sums.”
The judge for the case described Cunningham’s actions as being motivated by “greed”, however a jail sentence was spared as she is currently undergoing treatment for cervical cancer.
Trusting your accountants
Your accountants, or the people who handle the money in your company, arguably have the role that requires the most amount of trust.
Having adequate checks and balances in place to ensure fraud cannot happen within the finance team is crucial to avoiding stress, or even your firm closing down.
On their website, Witan Solicitors outlines what businesses can do to prevent this: “A system of effective checks and balances, which includes monitoring of equipment, regular bookkeeping and surprise stock audits, and robust cyber-security measures can limit the opportunities any potential thief has to steal from the business.
“Surveillance, when used legitimately, and within the confines of the law, is one of the best security measures to ensure that employees are not stealing from the business.
“A robust employee theft and/or misconduct policy can also act as a deterrent, especially if staff are aware that you will adopt a no-tolerance policy towards workplace theft.”