Many lawyers rely on their secretaries to handle accounting duties, including depositing receipts and paying bills. Secretaries in this position have frequent opportunities for self-enrichment, but most resist the temptation and follow the highest ethical standards. The recent arrest of a secretary who works for a Scranton attorney shows what happens when the ethical restraints are ignored.
In 2017, the lawyer discovered that his secretary had been allegedly stealing money since 2015. He confronted her with the suspected theft of $148,000, and she agreed to make restitution. For this reason, the lawyer did not report her to the police or fire her. Unfortunately, the woman allegedly continued to forge firm checks payable to herself. The checks were drawn on both the firm's general account and trust account.
In June of this year, the lawyer found out that the woman had continued to embezzle funds from the firm. He confronted her again, and she again agreed to make restitution. Her mother paid the attorney $50,000 as partial restitution, and other relatives and friends made small payments to the attorney. The straw that broke the camel's back was the lawyer's discovery in June that the woman had cashed seven checks in the total amount of $7,395, all drawn on his trust account. Both of the secretary's personal checks bounced. Further investigation by police showed that the woman frequently gambled at the Mohegan Sun Pocono, a casino in Plains Township.
The woman has been charged with three counts of forgery and two counts of theft by unlawful taking and access device fraud. These alleged crimes are all felonies, meaning that the woman could face a significant period of incarceration if she is convicted. Anyone facing similar charges may benefit from consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney for an evaluation of the evidence, advice on potential defenses and assistance in negotiating a favorable plea agreement.