Embezzlement cases more likely in small communities

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Mercer County is looking at another case of embezzlement. This time a school district bookkeeper is facing charges. 

Police say she stole between $10,000 and $100,000 from the Mercer County Athletic Boosters.

However, this is only the latest incident. 

In 2008, authorities discovered Sherrard’s village clerk Marilyn Davis had stolen around $100,000 from the village.   

Five years later, the Mercer County Treasurer was caught stealing. Police say he stole $13,000  county’s 911 center. 

In 2016, Sherrard Community Schools employee Joshua Thompson admitted to taking $14,000. 

Local accountant Steve Landauer said that’s bound to happen when only one person is looking at the finances.

“It’s going to happen over and over and over again,” said the certified public accountant. 

Steve Landauer is a certified public accoutant who has investigated embezzlement cases. 

He said in small communities it can almost be expected.

“If it’s a small organization that doesn’t have what we call internal controls — a lot of them are — it’s not unusual to see these things happen,” Landauer said.

That’s why Landauer said it’s important for someone else to take a look at the books. 

“Make sure everybody takes a vacation and someone else does their work,” she said. “That’s how a lot of these things get caught.”  

That’s how the City of Dixon discovered comptroller and treasurer Rita Crundwell was stealing money. She embezzled more than $53 million from the city over the course of two decades and used it to finance her horse farm.  

Although it’s on a smaller scale the latest embezzlement case in Mercer County is just as shocking to the Athletic Boosters. 

“[It’s] been very stressful, tiring [and an] emotional rollercoaster,” said Mercer County Athletic Boosters President Chris Whitenack. “It was a great impact. We actually have a couple outstanding bills that we had made promises to this last spring.”

Now they are making changes, like adding new accounting software, a second signature line on checks and more transparency at meetings. 

All types of internal controls, and without those, Landauer said the cycle of embezzlement could continue. 

“Sometimes if they’re really good it just goes on forever and ever and ever,” he said.

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