Steal and Conceal: MATC Procurement Director Fraud

Today the Journal Sentinel ran a story about the fraud perpetrated on Milwaukee Area Technical College (and taxpayers) by Kristin Semits, the procurement director. Seimits is accused of stealing more than $259,000j over a 7 year period using her P-card (purchasing card – like a company credit card).

The report produced by Titus, the company that investigated the fraud, can be seen here. A graph on page 2 shows how the theft started out small (a few thousand dollars each year) and built up to $86,000 in 2011 alone. MATC’s budget is $260 million, so it’s easy to see how a theft of $50,000 or $80,000 in one year might have flown under the radar.

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MATC Fraud Went Undetected Until First Audit in a Decade

Karen Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When a former Milwaukee Area Technical College employee used her MATC credit card to pay for a car, a wedding trip, computers, home furnishings and other personal items totaling $259,000, the purchases went undetected until the college’s first internal audit in a decade.

The audit was requested by James Williams, vice president of finance, who was surprised when he arrived at MATC in July 2010 to find the college had not had an internal audit since 2001. He quickly sought a routine audit because a college with a $260 million budget should have one, Williams told the Journal Sentinel on Tuesday.

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Subrogator Magazine: How to Make Jurors Care About a Property Insurer’s Case

Paul Falk and Bradley Arnold of Falk Metz LLC were recently published in Subrogator Magazine, contributing an article titled How to Make Jurors Care About a Property Insurer’s Case [link to article removed because Subrogator Magazine doesn’t want anyone to be able to read the article]. It’s an insightful article on the difficulty of making a juror relate to the plight of an insurance company, which is often seen as the profitable bad guy only looking out for its own interests.

Right or wrong, insurance companies are seen as huge corporations which will survive no matter the outcome of a jury trial. An individual or smaller company seeking to avoid reimbursing an insurance company may not survive, so easily, however. It is much easier for the juror to identify with the little guy.

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Are Divorce Lawyers Necessary?

Today the Wall Street Journal had a piece about the Texas Supreme Court considering whether to allow people to use fill-in-the-blank forms for divorces, potentially saving them a lot of money in legal fees. It is possible to handle your divorce pro se, but there is a concern that people are doing so to their own detriment.  In an effort to help do-it-yourself divorcees, 36 states currently have fill-in-the-blank forms for divorce.

It is simple to find forms to use in your divorce, but some attorneys say that this is a problem because divorcing couples don’t use the right forms, become a burden on the courts when they require hand-holding, and can make uninformed decisions during the process of the divorce.

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The Justice Department’s Slippery Slope: Enforcement Versus Regulation

Guest post by Michael Volkov, Esq.

The Department of Justice is proud of its record on FCPA enforcement. They take credit whenever and wherever they can. They trumpet every settlement. They proudly proclaim that over half of last year’s criminal fines were collected for FCPA violations. They are entitled to claim success.

It is hard to argue against prosecutions of private companies and individuals who engage in foreign bribery. Such conduct skews competition in the global marketplace, undermines the integrity of foreign governments and threatens to destabilize governments. These harms are more than evident – they are inescapable and persuasive. Our national interest supports reducing foreign bribery to protect the integrity of the global economy and foreign governments.

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Red Flags Pointed Directly to Madoff

It’s hard to believe that a Ponzi scheme as massive as the one perpetrated by Bernard Madoff got by anyone. Surely he was the most clever criminal alive, and was ingenious at hiding his fraud. There couldn’t have been any signs of the scam he was running. Or were there?

It turns out there were plenty of red flags pointing squarely at the scheme Madoff was running. It was clear years ago to Harry Markopolos, the author of “No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller.”Markopolos was the whistleblower who went to the Securities and Exchange Commission on several occasions with his suspicions about Bernie Madoff. But he wasn’t an investment expert who was “just jealous” of Madoff’s apparent success in generating high earnings for his clients quarter after quarter. He was a numbers wizard who had concrete proof the Madoff’s “investment strategy” couldn’t be anything like what he (or others) said it was.

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Fraudulent Accounting Practices: Easy to Commit, Hard to Find

We hear almost daily reports of companies engaging in accounting shenanigans to boost their apparent performance. As of late, companies like Diamond Foods (DMND), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and Avon Products Inc. (AVP) are grabbing headlines for their alleged bad behavior.

Avon has been under the shadow of bribery allegations, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), since at least 2008. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars conducting internal investigations, has lost at least four executives linked to bribery in China, and has been suffering from poor financial performance. And now it appears that Avon may have been aware of bribes being paid as far back as 2005, meaning the company’s problems may soon get even worse.

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Discovery of Financial Documents in Family Law Cases

Recently, my very smart friend and colleague Randy Kessler, Esq. participated in a podcast called Show Me the Money: Helping Clients Find and Protect Assets in a Divorce for the American Bar Association  Journal. The podcast focused on finding (and keeping!) assets in divorce and child support matters.

I’ve written about finding hidden income in divorce cases, as well as performing a lifestyle analysis to prove that there are hidden earnings. The concealment of assets and earnings in a divorce case is a hot-button issue. It is important to get your arms around these issues early if you are to have a good chance of finding the money and getting your share of the money.

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Making Mistakes With Expert Witnesses

There is little doubt that litigation can be stressful for clients and attorneys alike. With filings, briefs, and deadlines, the litigator has little time to worry about whether her or his expert witness is getting the job done. The attorney usually has one shot for the expert to get the case right. If the expert witness fails, it can have wide-reaching implications for the entire case.

Experts aren’t perfect. Mistakes can be made and deadlines can be missed. Pertinent documentation can be overlooked, and erroneous conclusions can be drawn. These can be fatal errors for the litigator.

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Criminal Defense of Financial Cases

The most interesting cases I work are criminal cases for defendants accused of financial crimes such as money laundering, tax fraud, bribery and corruption, embezzlement, and investment fraud. I do my best work as a forensic accountant and fraud investigator in cases in which a trail of money must be followed through a complex web of people, entities, and bank accounts.

Peers and colleagues often question my desire to do criminal defense work. CPAs often see themselves as financial watchdogs, especially when they are providing traditional accounting or auditing services. The see themselves on the “right side” of the law, and can’t get their heads around the idea of a CPA helping a criminal.

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