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Innocent activity can look like fraudulent billing

Whether in a private corporation, a public entity or even a charitable non-profit organization, those who control the money have a great deal of power and responsibility.

Particularly if they are under financial stress, it can be very tempting to dip into the company's money as a way of temporarily fixing a tough situation. At other times, what may well have been a mistake could look to a forensic accountant like a fraudulent act, leading to a false accusation of fraud, embezzlement or some other criminal activity.

There are in particular a number red flags that might raise an accountant's or an auditor's suspicions that an employee has misappropriated funds via one of several false billing or invoicing schemes.

For example, unexplained invoices to the same vendor or a bunch of small invoices that just happen to fall below the radar of upper management can arouse suspicions. Even things that may seem like a positive, like a fast turnaround for an invoice, can also be viewed as evidence of a fraud.

Other things, like invoices which cannot be paired with goods or services actually delivered or an unnecessarily large order of new goods, may also be taken as an indication of dishonesty.

Basically, other than a person's admission, there is no one sign that is a smoking gun for embezzlement of business funds. In fact, many things that look like dishonesty can in fact be just accidents or even unacceptable but certainly not criminal carelessness with funds.

It can be nerve-wracking for anyone in Cincinnati who is in charge of accounts to have their books reviewed, even though this is a routine part of good business practice. It can be absolutely devastating when the review does not go well and, as a result, one faces accusations of theft and dishonesty under federal or Ohio law. In the latter case, mounting a vigorous defense may be key.

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