Audit Details Former Employee’s Theft from Village of Windham
Columbus – A former employee of the Village of Windham (Portage County) tried to conceal her theft of almost $5,000 by tampering with the village’s utility billing system, according to an audit released today.
Former Utility Clerk Lindsey Paolella pleaded guilty in October to a fourth-degree felony count of theft in office and a third-degree felony count of tampering with records. She was sentenced in January to 90 days in jail, four years of probation and ordered to pay restitution.
The Auditor of State’s office reported today that Paolella stole $4,911 in cash from 28 utility payments made by customers from Jan. 1, 2016, through Oct. 5, 2016. For many of the payments, she tried to cover her tracks with a tactic called an adjusting journal entry scheme. (Learn more about the scheme on pages 8-9 of this report.)
Instead of recording the transaction as a payment in the billing system, culprits using the scheme pocket cash and lower the victimized customer’s account balance enough to offset the stolen amount. Doing so ensures the government’s books balance at the end of the day and makes it appear as if the customer’s balance is paid in full.
“This ruse only works when no one is carefully monitoring billing activity,” Auditor Yost said. “Village council needs to enhance its oversight of transactions to prevent customer payments from winding up in the pockets of unscrupulous employees.”
Auditors determined that Paolella created 19 fraudulent adjustments to customer accounts. They issued a $4,911 finding for recovery against her and her bonding company.
A special report published by Auditor Yost in November highlights the dangers local governments face when financial processes go unchecked. According to the report, more than $3.4 million in payments received by local governments in the past decade never made it into the government accounts.
Since 2011, the Auditor of State’s office has helped secure 165 convictions across the state. An interactive map available here provides information on all of the cases.
A full copy of this report is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.