Student loans are a financial burden for many Americans. Many borrowers resort to extreme measures to pay down their balances, and some even resort to crime to find the cash. After a recent months-long investigation, Indiana authorities charged an Indiana women with four felony counts of forgery in regards to an elaborate embezzlement scheme.
As a senior accountant for an Indianapolis-based company called Mobile Drill, the alleged criminal abused access to the company chequebook to embezzle over $450,000 from her employer. The stolen money went to an odd collection of expenses: trips to Florida and Hawaii, paying for homes in Indiana and Florida, medical bills, and even her student loans.
The employer, Mobile Drill, discovered the missing money after auditing the company’s 2016 financial statements. The accused wrote over 135 checks, and she covered her tracks within the accounting software used by Mobile Drill. Using a series of entries designed to hide the outgoing payments as legitimate expenses, she managed to conceal her theft for a period of three years from 2014 to 2017.
The accused woman was promptly fired, and the case was turned over to local police. She was arrested shortly thereafter, facing felony forgery charges. After a guilty plea in court, Marion Superior Judge William J. Nelson ordered her to pay $96,000 in restitution and perform 320 hours of community service. She will also serve eight years of probation and make $1,000 monthly payments during that time to satisfy the court-ordered financial restitution to Mobile Drill.
Financial employees such as controllers, accounts payable clerks, cashiers, and accountants can all use their knowledge of accounting to hide crimes for years until the fraud falls apart. The lure of financial crime is a persistent one. Despite improvements in accounting controls and employer scrutiny, the problem has not disappeared.
The prosecutor in the Kirby case, Terry Curry, commented on his experience with this and other financial crime cases: “we have seen, through the multiple prosecutions of accountants, bookkeepers and other fund managers, that the temptation to siphon off company funds cannot be underestimated.”
Student loans are a significant financial burden to many Americans. Over 44 million Americans carry debt from their education, and the total outstanding balance exceeds $1.3 trillion. It’s rare to see a desperate borrower resort to a life of crime to make their payments, but many would understand the motivation to get ahead on payments.
Workplace crime costs employers over $50 billion per year according to a recent report by CNBC. While that amount is surely staggering to consider, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the outstanding student loan balance. It would take the entire losses from financial fraud and 26 years of payments to pay off America’s student debt (disregarding interest and new debt).