Otsego Co. Woman Accused Of Embezzling Nearly $200,000

Police accuse an Otsego County woman of embezzling nearly $200,000 from local businesses and then leaving for Florida.

That’s where she was arrested last month, in Marion County.

Police returned her to Gaylord to face those charges.

According to police in Gaylord, she pocketed around $180,000 from two area auto businesses while working as a manager.

All of this took place over a five year period ending in 2013, when an audit discovered the missing money.

Reporter Charlie Tinker has more details and spoke to a financial expert on how businesses can protect themselves.

“I’ve studied a lot of cases,” related Andrew Raymond, a financial expert with Kindlinger and Company in Traverse City. “I’ve seen, on a small scale fraud ongoing but not to this extent.”

Police accuse this woman, Penny Fairbotham, with embezzling around a hundred-eighty thousand dollars from these two local businesses–U-Save Auto and Value Corral.

A situation familiar to Financial Expert Andrew Raymond.

“Even though you might trust your employees, just having that skepticism that maybe something’s going on that you’re not aware of,” advised Raymond.

Raymond worked as an auditor for years and he tells us it’s often misplaced trust that causes victims to turn a blind eye.

To a small business, missing cash can be devastating, but there are ways to protect against it.

“You don’t want the same person… [to] be able to have access to the cash and then have the ability to sign the actual check,” said Raymond.

All of this happened over a five year period. That translates out to three grand going missing every month. Our business expert tells us it’s typically drawn out like that and could start out with just a few bucks here and there.

“They don’t just go out and steal a hundred thousand dollars and try to get away with it,” said Raymond. “They take a small amount, they realize they got away with it, it wasn’t caught and then continue to do that.”

In that way, Raymond says, embezzlers and other fraudsters manage to trick themselves into thinking it’s okay… and in many cases, it’s how they get themselves caught.

“Something happens in their life–they need money, they get the money but they’re still behind and need more money… and that’s what happens is they stretch too far,” said Raymond.

Fairbotham’s already been in court twice–and she’s due back in June.