Stephen Taylor has seen his fair share of small business folks get duped out of their life savings, homes, health insurance and their retirement plan.
The deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County for some 36 years was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Lunch & Learn event hosted by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn event at the Stadium Retail Center’s Round Table Pizza.
Taylor shed light on employee embezzlement and other financial crimes, using actual cases.
Included was the one involving Charlotte Hendry. She’s the former controller of the Brookside Country Club in Stockton accused of stealing more than $615,000 in cash and unauthorized credit card charges.
Taylor noted that most of the stolen money went to bankrolling Hendry’s side job of managing Elvis impersonators.
“For a white-collar crime like this, she’ll serve two years (at San Joaquin County Jail), at most,” he said.
Taylor added that embezzlers are usually strong-willed people who are also entrepreneurs, with many likely to land another job in handling money after serving time.
He was joined by SJC District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar and Chief Deputy DA Sherri Adams, who supervises the Quality of Life Division.
Brookside Country Club, fortunately, was able to recoup some its losses thanks to insurance.
Don and Nita Reinhart weren’t as fortunate. They lost their business following the arrest and conviction of Jennifer Patterson, accused of embezzling $234,000.
They owned the Delta Charter Bus of Stockton. The Reinharts, who are both in their 70s with no children, treated Jennifer Patterson as their daughter, showering her with lavish gifts coupled with a family cruise.
“A lot of our victims are elderly,” Taylor added.
The Reinharts even hired members of Jennifer Patterson’s family – David Patterson, her husband, worked as a mechanic while her mother-in-law Katherine Patterson was a driving instructor and bus driver.
Taylor encouraged the business people at the Chamber function to take out embezzlement insurance. “It’s attainable,” he said.
In addition, he believes it’s not best to give full access to mail and other important documents to any one employee.
In the case of a bookkeeper, Taylor said that the position should be shared by two people of opposite demeanor, and done so on a rotating basis.
Family businesses are also susceptible to fraud.
“It’s usually the second or third generation (family members),” he said. “The first generation (family) watches payroll like a hawk.”
Taylor hopes that information shared by DA’s office will be beneficial.
“I think it has raised awareness (in us) to do our due diligence with the checks and balances,” said Chamber Executive Director Joann Beattie.