FRAUD EXAMINATION REPORT
-The case of Carpet Circuit Décor
Accounting information relayed through the financial statements of a business organization and presents critical information about the financial health of the organizations. The financial information thus relayed by the statements is used by the stakeholders of the business in their decision-making process (Chariri, 2007). The financial frauds often comprise of the inability of the business organizations to communicate the true and fair information and state of the affairs in their financial statements to the stakeholders of the business. The financial frauds tend to distort the image and future performance of the business organization (Carcello and Nagy, 2004). A family-owned business CarpetCircuit Décor, located in Hornsby, New South Wales as reported by the Co-owner and manager, Jake Walker, has been experiencing certain problems which all point towards a possibility of financial fraud being committed within the company. The purpose of the report is to present the results of the fraud investigation that was carried out in the company. Further, this report aims to present a recommendation to Mr. Jake Walker regarding the future course of actions that can be adopted.
Jack Walker has been managing his family business, CarpetCircuit Décor since past four years. The company was established in 1964 by his father Roy Walker. The company deals in sells and installs carpet, marble floor- tiles and blinds. The company currently holds the position of being the importer and supplier of the highly prized Italian ‘Caverra’ marble floor- tiles in the Australian market and has approximate average annual sales between $20 million and $25 million. The company, according to Jake Walker, has been experiencing certain internal employee related issues recently. One of his most trusted employees, Daniel, has left the company citing the poor and autocratic behavior of the Warehouse Manager, Pham Anh (Andy). Along with this, the complaints from two of the company’s tilers Ralph and Stweart, have surfaced about the quality of the floor- tiles that the company supplies to the market. The tiles have suddenly become difficult to lay, they are uneven, and crack very easily and are of poorer quality, colour and texture. There are also concerns about the complaints received from the customers regarding the deteriorating quality of the firm’s prime products, which presents a serious threat to the brand loyalty and image in the market.
Jake Walker, on 27 July 2017 received a notice from the Bardigo First Bank, where his company CarpetCircuit Décor holds its accounts, stating that the firm’s line of credit was overdrawn by a significant amount, which was initially set up for contingencies. The bank notice came as a shock for Mr. Walker as the account, which was set up within an upper limit of $300,000, was overdrawn by $50,000, mas maintained for his firm in the case of unprecedented events requiring urgent cash injection. Also, Mr. Walker was not aware of any such contingencies that might have arisen in the recent past. Apart from the notice from the bank, Jake Walker also received an anonymous letter containing a newspaper clipping warning him to be careful and to watch his staff. The anonymous whistle blown through the newspaper piece alerted him of the misdeeds going on in the company under his watch. These factors, coupled with the common discontent expressed by some of the trusted staff motivated Jake for taking the help of an investigating firm. Mr. Walker engaged our services to get his company examined for a potential financial fraud.
3. Executive Summary
The investigation started when Jake Walker, manager and co-owner of CarpetCircuit Décor received notice from the bank citing his line of credit had been overdrawn, which coupled with an anonymous whistleblower letter made him aware of the possibility of wrongdoings in his firm. Mr. Walker had been experiencing several issues concerning his business including quality concerns being raised both in and outside the company from the client. Mr. Walker was especially concerned about the increasing accounts of customer dissatisfaction. Daisy Sefton had been with CarpetCircuit Décor since long and was handling the accounts department of the firm. Her brother in law Pham Anh (Andy) was also employed in the company as a warehouse manager. Daisy asked for a raise on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, due to her father’s poor health, who later was found to have been dead for the past six years. The fraud investigation team examined each and every aspect of the warehouse and accounts department and informally interviewed the office employees under the guise of employees from another company due to a business deal with CarpetCircuit Décor. The examination of the personal work desk and cabinets revealed several key invoices and documents indicating three probable areas of asset diversion, purchasing/supplier fraud, sales fraud and billing fraud. Upon interviewing Daisy Sefton she admitted to having had played a key role in the embezzlement scheme that was running in the company.
The scope of the Fraud Investigation carried out by Rest-Assured Security Services is as follows;
The examination has been prompted by a series of events including the call for notice received by the co-owner and manager, Jack Walker, from the Bardigo First Bank along with an anonymous tip-off received in the mail.
Fraud Examination Team Members
CLIENT NAME, Chief Financial Crime Investigator, Chase Klim an agent was appointed as a recently graduated accountant, was deliberately brought in to shadow Daisy Sefton. Jasper Binchy was planted in place of Pham Anh (Andy) as the warehouse manager. Further, each fraud investigators were accompanied by an external auditor to examine the accounts with the possibility of a fraud. Finally, the investigative team included Angus, an IT Forensic Investigator.
As a part of the examination, the Financial Crime Investigation team undertook the following actions:
During the course of the investigation, the co-owner and manager of CarpetCircuit Décor was interviewed for his formal statement about the internal practices in his firm and the provisions and bylaws in his company pertaining to the fraudulent activities conducted by the employees. Further, Daisy Sefton, the party found guilty, was interviewed by the Chief Investigator (CI). The interview comprised of the timeline and the motive of the fraud she committed.
On Monday, 31 July 2017, Jack Walker after receiving two documents which alerted him to the possibility of an organizational fraud being carried within his business, which made him recruit the services of Rest-Assured Security which is based in Chatswood, NSW. In the meeting, it was decided that internal investigation would be carried out within the organization especially of the Accounts and the Warehouse of the business, retracing the activities of the previous two years. The investigation was to be carried out under the guise of another company Heavenly Clouds Interiors, with which CarpetCircuit Décor is supposed to be entering into a business deal.
After the desired announcements were made in the company regarding the potential new employees from Heavenly Clouds Interiors, Jack Walker reviewed the personnel files and appointed Carol, an existing employee, and Chase Klim, a member of the investigative team and undercover as a freshly graduated trainee accountant as mentees to Daisy Sefton. Further, upon a thorough examination of the leave rosters, it was found that Daisy Sefton had not taken any leave over the past eight years, following which, he advised her to take 4 weeks of leave with immediate effect.
This was followed by the appointment of undercover investigator Jasper Binchy as a full-time replacement for Daniel, a trusted employee who resigned recently following the high handed mannerisms of Andy, the warehouse manager.
Over the next few weeks, the accounts and the warehouse divisions of the company were scrutinized by the undercover investigating officers posted within these offices. Chase Klim, the agent in the accounts office picked up several interesting pieces of information. It was found that Daisy was being increasingly protective over the general ledger book of the business and refused access to her new mentees, Chase and Carol. Further, it was found that she refrained from assigned key roles and responsibilities pertaining to the sales and receivables accounts to both of them, overriding Jack’s orders to do so. Further, Chase also picked up on the office grapevine network, through Daisy’s friend Mary, the information rotating that Mary was selling most of her home furniture on an online site “Buy, Swap and Sell”. On the Other hand, Jasper Binchy, the investigating agent planted in the warehouse as a replacement for Andy (another prime suspect for business fraud), went through Andy’s personal belongings and found a photocopy of an airline booking receipt which showed that Andy was due to travel to Ho Chi Minh City via Vietnamese Airlines on the same day that he was supposedly travelling to Italy in his garbage bin. However, Andy’s computer records could not be accessed.
On Wednesday, 2 August 2017, Chase Klim, the investigative officer planted in the accounting officer arrived earlier in the office, finding the lights on. It was discovered that Daisy was having an altercation with some unidentified person on Skype, and sounded fairly upset. The gist of the conversation can be summarised in a manner that indicated that someone was desiring money from her with respect to the health of their mother and they had plans to get married. When Chase entered the office, Daisy shut down her computer, made a mobile call and left the premises. At around 8 on the same day, Chase’s co- mentee, Carol came in with Daisy’s purse stating that she spotted her in a coffee shop with her sister, and made a hasty exit after spotting Carol, leaving her purse behind. As per Carol’s account as an eyewitness, Daisy’s sister Rose was driving a fairly expensive car, a new black Maserati, with the name Andy written on the license plate.
Jack, being the responsible employer, took it upon himself to personally deliver Daisy’s purse to her house in Pennant Hills. His visit led to a series of new revelations. There was a sign of a “Garage Sale this Saturday” on Daisy’s front lawn and upon further inquiry, Jack found out that post her father’s demise six years ago, Daisy spent most of her time at her Sister’s home. This particular piece of information was a rather interesting, citing the fact that on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, Daisy has demanded an increase in pay so that her current annual salary of $97,000 be increased to $107,000 per annum due to the increased cost of caring for her elderly father at home. Perturbed by the series of events, Jack went to Rose and Andy’s house, located at 10 Sandry Crescent, Beecroft. It was found that their home was a luxurious two-story mansion surrounded by fountains, a tennis court, and a swimming pool. The luxurious house is rather suspicious considering the fact that Jack is merely a Warehouse manager with an annual salary of $110,000 and his spouse Rose is a stay at home mother to their three kids. On further inspection, a Maserati with the number plate ‘Andy’ and a large van bearing the name ‘Marble Impressions’ was found in the garage. The lifestyle followed by Andy and Rose provided a major indication of their involvement in the foul play at CarpetCircuit Décor.
Undercover agent Jasper Binchy in his investigation of the warehouse found several discrepancies in the managerial procedures being followed by Andy.
Revelations from the caged section of the warehouse
On Thursday, 3 August 2017, Jasper Binchy found 500 units (boxes) coded and marked ‘Caverra marble’, packed together in a locked caged rear section of the warehouse. Upon gaining Jack’s permission to bring in a Locksmith and getting the cage opened, it was found that out of a total of 500 boxes, only 25 were filled with marble and the rest were found to be empty.
Revelations from Daisy’s filing cabinet
The opening of Daisy’s filing cabinet led to certain interesting indication towards the fraud being conducted in CarpetCircuit Décor.
There was a large pack of ‘Carverra Marble’ letterheads and a file marked restricted. A search of the file produced 30 completed invoices on the ‘Carverra Marble’ letterhead to CarpetCircuit Decor for amounts ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 for the marble tiles. The invoices were found to have been generated by a word processor, were numbered sequentially and carried a registered address as P.O. Box 145, Beecroft. The invoices were marked to be paid to the Carverra Marble account, Eastpac Bank Account No. 203465. This was an interesting development in the sense that the false company being used by Daisy for fraud carried a name similar to the firm’s genuine supplier. Further, as per the claims made by the owner, Jack Walker, of Carverra Marble was unheard off and his company, Carpetcircuit Decor had never used Carverra Marble as a supplier. Apart from the invoices to Carverra Marbles, the restricted folder also contained five invoices to ‘Carverra Marble’ from Hornsby Storage Units, 22 Caraway Avenue, Hornsby, marked ‘PAID’, along with the receipts depicting monthly payments of $420 for the months May-September, 2017 for storage unit No 68. The receipts were drawn for ‘Carverra Marble’
A close scrutiny of the second drawer revealed 42 blank CarpetCircuit Décor cheques in a chequebook along with CarpetCircuit Décor NCR receipt books. The receipt books were identified by Jack, however, he claimed that the amounts inked on the receipt books were not aligned with the printed spaces on it, indicating that they were tampered with.
The bottom drawer revealed a key with a tag marked ‘Hornsby Storage Unit 68’.along with a large number of Eastpac bank statements in the name of ‘Marble Impressions’ along with an Eastpac ATM Visa card receipt notice in the name of Daisy Sefton. The address given was the same postal address as Carverra Marble and the bank statements were addressed to the same postal address of Carverra Marble. The account No. 203465 matched the account details given on the Carverra Marble invoice found in the top drawer. A thorough assessment of these statements and documents revealed that CarpetCircuit Decor had been making a considerable number of payments to Marble Impressions.
Jack Walker confirmed that the amounts of $25,000 to $100,000 for marble tiles as set out on the ‘Carverra Marble’ letterhead matched the usual cost price for the units of the authorized Caverra marble tiles. Further, a cross-examination of Daisy Sefton’s Eastpac ATM Visa card address showed a match with the ‘Marble Impressions’, presenting evidence that she was embroiled in a fake vendor scheme. An examination of the information gathered from the invoices about ‘Carverra Marble’, revealed that the company was spurious. An examination of the Australian Business Number (ABN) revealed that the ABN number given on the Carverra Marble letterhead, too was false. The entire hard drive of Daisy’s computer was then duplicated. And the original drive was then moved to secure storage.
Andy’s computer was then under scrutiny, which was found to be his personal property. Upon opening his locked drawer, a number of personal papers were recovered including a photocopy of an airline return e-ticket implying that Andy was booked to travel from Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnamese Airlines VA657, which was arriving at Sydney Airport at 4.00pm on Sunday. Further investigations were halted on account of the flash drives and computer being Andy’s personal property which could not be accessed without his approval or a court order. Another hurdle was found in the absence of evidence and witnesses pertaining to the involvement of Daisy Sefton, Andy and Marble Impressions.
Jack Walker received an email from the Italian manufacturers of ‘Caverra’ marble on Saturday, August 2017, stating that their contract expired with CarpetCircuit in June following their receipt of a cancellation letter signed, which turned out to be an unauthorized email sent from his office.
Upon Andy’s arrival, the units in the caged section of the warehouse increased from 500 to 900, fully packed with marble. The CCTV footage was found to have been removed for the last 24 hours and a check of the access code monitor indicated Andy’s access code was entered at 8 pm on the previous evening and an exit occurred at 7.15am.
A further assessment of bank statements for Account No 65742 provided by the Bardigo First Bank. It was found that the recorded payments made to Carverra Marble had 10% added to each payment. Further, six unauthorized payments of $420 were made on the first of each month between May and October to State Bank Account No 4873968 to Hornsby Storage Units. Also, a line of credit account no. 342516 showed regular withdrawals of $15,000 each month with $2,000 as cash and $13,000 electronic transfers to Eastpac Bank Account No. 203465. There are three areas of asset diversion that have been identified in the above situation, purchasing/supplier fraud, sales fraud and billing fraud.
The analysis of the state of affairs at the CarpetCircuit Décor reveals a high degree of dependency of the co-owner Jack Walker on his employees, and his minimal involvement in the business operations. While delegation of decision making power is advantageous for a business, there must be a certain degree control exercised by the business head. As a part of the recommendations, it is advisable that Mr. Walker proceeds with a little caution in terms of the trust he places in his employees and ensuring an element of internal control. Further, a centralised inventory system must be incorporated in the business restoring some form of control in the organization. These actions, cumulatively would cover the existing shortfalls in the company and present scope for improved performance in the future.
Carcello, J. V. and Nagy, A. L. (2004) ‘Audit firm tenure and fraudulent financial reporting’, Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, 23(2), pp. 55–69.
Chariri, A. (2007) ‘The Relevance of Forensic Accounting in Detecting Financial Frauds’, Jurnal Organisasi dan Manajemen, 3(2), pp. 81–88. Available at: http://eprints.undip.ac.id/581/1/Relevance_of_Forensic_Accounting_in_Detecting_FInanciual_Fraud.pdf.
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