Accountants Behaving Badly: Deadly Lunch Breaks, Embezzler Gets 10 Years, Church Swindler

Plus, tax accountant pleads guilty to scamming clients and a movie production accountant is accused of stealing money from his employer.

Police: Lindenwold man’s ‘demeanor’ changed after co-worker’s murder [Cherry Hill Courier-Post]
Kenneth Saal, a staff accountant at Engine Group in Princeton, NJ, since July 2016, was taken into custody on a murder charge at his home in Lindenwold, NJ, on Aug. 21 for allegedly killing a co-worker during an extended lunch break from his job on June 10.

Kenneth Saal

Saal, 30, allegedly lied about his whereabouts at the time of Carolyn Byington’s death and asked a co-worker “unprompted” if he could be arrested “based on circumstantial evidence alone,” authorities said.

According to a probable cause statement for his arrest, after DNA samples were taken from “numerous individuals,” investigators learned Saal “could not be excluded as a match” for DNA material found “in the area of the victim’s fingernails.”

He is accused of killing Byington, 26, who was “stabbed numerous times and subject to blunt force trauma,” in her home in Plainsboro, NJ.

Nonprofit embezzler sentenced to 10 years, ordered to pay back nearly $1.5 million [Port Huron Times Herald]
Here’s an update to a story we mentioned in Accountants Behaving Badly on May 13:

The former accountant of a Port Huron nonprofit was ordered Thursday [Aug. 22] to pay back nearly $1.5 million to the agency that assists those with disabilities live independently, though the judge said he was skeptical it would ever happen.

Richard Hartwick, 71, of Okemos, was also sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison for his embezzlement from Blue Water Center for Independent Living.

Judge Michael West said the sentence exceeded the recommendation of six years in prison in part because of the low chance restitution will ever be paid.

Richard Hartwick

The embezzled funds are believed to be tied up in assets, such as trailers and bank accounts, which other individuals may have a stake in, particularly Hartwick’s children, according to court officials.

Hartwick previously pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement involving $100,000 or more, one count of fraudulent access of a computer, one count of using a computer to do a crime, one count of financial transaction forgery, one count of forgery or alteration of a financial transaction device, one count of conducting a criminal enterprise and one count of criminal enterprise involving racketeering proceeds.

Michael Pommer

Wakefield accountant pleads no contest to stealing $109K from church [Sioux City Journal]
Michael Pommer, an accountant in Wakefield, NE, pleaded no contest to one count of theft by unlawful taking on Aug. 26. As part of a plea agreement, 14 counts of theft by unlawful taking will be dismissed.

Pommer was accused of making 15 transfers totaling $109,727 from two accounts at Salem Lutheran Church to his personal bank account and American Express account. The transfers, ranging from $1,750 to $15,000, were made during a two-year period from June 24, 2016, through Sept. 5, 2018.

Tax accountant pleads guilty to scamming clients in fraud and money laundering scheme [Justice Department]
Salvatore Arena pleaded guilty on Aug. 23 to misappropriating more than $780,000 of client money for his own use.

Arena, 47, of Queens, NY, defrauded numerous clients during the period from January 2014 through March 2019.

He reportedly offered tax services, including the preparation and payment of taxes, to clients of an accounting firm in Manhattan. Instead of making payments on behalf of those clients, Arena diverted client funds for his own use. He executed this fraudulent scheme in two primary ways: first, by diverting prepayments of taxes to his own tax account and later claiming illegitimate refunds, and second, by misappropriating tax payments clients had wired into a bank account controlled by Arena.

Arena pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud, money laundering, and wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit $789,195.35 and to pay restitution as ordered by the court.

Arena is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13.

Accountant accused of stealing from Cats production company [economia]
Scott Hiskey, a U.K. accountant who worked for Monumental Pictures, a production company that has worked alongside Universal on the upcoming Cats film, has been accused of stealing £230,000 from his employer.

He faces charges of fraud by abuse of position.

Between April 2016 and October 2018, Hiskey allegedly stole £230,116 from Monumental Pictures while working at its offices in Islington. He is accused of transferring or siphoning off money to his own personal account.

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