Column: No shortage of fraud cases, experts say
DIXON – Ever since Dixon’s comptroller was arrested, I’ve been on the hunt for fraud cases.
And there’s certainly no shortage.
A Franklin Grove native pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding investors and clients out of more than $93 million.
The former president and CEO of Chicago-based Canopy Financial Inc., Jeremy Blackburn, was found dead the day before he was supposed to start serving a 15-year prison sentence, according to the Chicago Tribune.
About the same time, a Rock Falls woman wrapped up 2 years of probation and 320 hours of public service on a misdemeanor theft charge connected to the theft of more than $10,000 from the Rock Falls High School Music Boosters over 4 years.
Just months earlier, a former Oregon schools employee received 2 years of probation for stealing less than $20,000 from the district. Donna Hermes, 41, of Amboy, received the conditional discharge in exchange for pleading guilty.
I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was at the number of cases I found in the Sauk Valley area.
Fraud is “absolutely epidemic,” one fraud expert told me in an interview not long after Crundwell’s arrest.
Tom Golden is retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was the partner in charge of Midwest investigations and forensic auditing services. He often provided expert testimony in criminal and civil cases.
“It is everywhere, and unfortunately, it hits nonprofits like local governments and charities quite a bit,” Golden said.
The reason, he said, is that entities like that try to limit their administrative staff, which means fewer people handling financial duties.
“One of the main problems the city of Dixon has is incompatible duties, being that the comptroller and the treasurer were one and the same person,” said David Sinason, a certified fraud examiner and a Northern Illinois University accounting professor.
“That’s a major problem.”
If other government entities are vulnerable, their officials aren’t advertising it.
Shortly after Crundwell’s arrest, Sauk Valley Media spoke to other area government officials and most were confident that they had procedures in place to minimize the chances that fraud could occur.
“The park district can and does account for every penny,” Dixon Park District Executive Director Deb Carey said.
Few took any additional steps or precautions.
One of the exceptions was Dixon Public Schools, which decided to conduct an extra audit to make sure district employees actually were following the internal controls the district said they were.
This Saturday the Weekend Edition will include a special edition of Dateline Dixon to answer frequently asked questions about the Aug. 18 Mumford & Sons concert at Page Park.
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