Tuesday, 03 June 2014 00:00

Embezzlement at Body Shop Trial in Baraga County, MI, is Extended

Cynthia Wadaga is on trial accused of embezzling more than $20,000 from the body shop in L'Anse, MI, where she worked over a two-year period. Wadaga worked at First Choice Auto Body in L’Anse from June 2009 until June 2011, when owner William Ross fired her and accused her of having stolen from the business. An estimated $24,000 was taken during that time, according to reports in the Daily Mining Gazette.

Testifying for the prosecution was Andrew Wallner, a certified public accountant who Ross brought in to look at the company’s financial reports after he fired Wadaga.

 

While the bottom line was the same on both the company’s QuickBooks records and the bank deposit slips, they got to the total by different ways. Less cash went to the bank, but the difference was made up by checks not reflected in the QuickBooks account. He showed examples of accounts where the cash total had been adjusted downward.

“We determined that there was an issue, and Willie’s accusation that there was an issue on his books was justified, and we needed to turn it over to the officers and let them pursue it,” he said.

During cross-examination, he allowed for the possibility that the revisions could have come from changes in estimates for the work, records for which had not been provided to him. Wadaga’s attorney George Hyde also questioned Wallner about omissions and inconsistencies with the audit report from First Choice’s software. The audit report for July 2011 came in at 729 pages; the combined report for July through December 2011 was 727. Wallner said there could potentially be a difference in the printing settings, but he couldn’t say for certain without more information.

Dan Larson, an employee at First Choice Auto Body since 2010, said owner William Ross had come to him with concerns that Wadaga was stealing from the company. “I said, ‘Well, let’s start counting,’” he said.

They tabulated the amount of petty cash in the cash box at $103. Two days later, it was at $3.

Under cross-examination, Larson said the cash box was kept in the same cabinet; both cabinet and box were locked at night. However, he did recall some instances where he was able to see the open box unsecured during the work day.

Hyde asked Larson about alleged conversations with Wadaga in which he expressed concerns that Ross was taking too much money from his business. Larson said he could not recall having such a talk, and had never had thoughts along those lines.

Fraud examiner John Bengel, discussed financial inconsistencies in the First Choice records. Bengel presented transactions from towing and repair records that had been zeroed out on QuickBooks from Wadaga’s login.

A June 9, 2011, repair was entered as $250 and voided out shortly after that. Bengel said staff had confirmed the repair work had been done.

“There would be no reason to have this transaction voided from QuickBooks,” Bengel said.

On numerous occasions, $100 cash deductibles were marked as paid on invoices, but no record could be found in the QuickBooks audit report.

After the last of the 89 exhibits was introduced, Bengel then moved to deposits made to Wadaga’s checking account between June 2009 and June 2011. He read off the total cash and check deposits for each day, then the combined totals for each week.

Wadaga is charged with embezzling less than $50,000, a 10-year felony.

The trial concluded May 21, 2014.

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