Sunday, December 20, 2009


"Thou shall not steal" is the eighth of the 10 commandments in the Bible and the consequences of violating the sacred mandate is a lesson Cathy Bussey is now learning. Police arrested Bussey December 8, 2009 on charges of embezzling more than $27,000 from St. Andrews Catholic Church in Eagle River.
Bussey, 42, of Anchorage, allegedly used her position as a part-time employee at the church to redirect $27,630.87 into her personal bank account using a direct deposit payroll system, according to Anchorage Police Department Detective Joe Barth, with the Financial Crimes Unit.
She is also suspected of creating a false invoice for $9,800 worth of landscaping materials. Barth said he believes she diverted that cash for personal use through a business in California.
Bussey is charged with scheming to defraud, theft in the first degree and falsifying business records.
"It's our understanding that between Aug. 2008 and May of 2009 that Bussey used her skills as an accountant to redirect money into her personal accounts," Barth said. "The church contacted police after they completed an internal review or audit of their books."
Barth added that Bussey either overpaid herself through the use of the direct deposit system or created a false invoice to pay for personal items she had purchased by disguising it as items to complete landscaping around the new church building.
"The people who commit crimes like this are very good at covering their tracks," Barth said. "But they are also greedy and you can only hide things so long before someone gets suspicious and discovers the money is missing."
That was the case with Bussey, who for more than nine months was able to keep her alleged embezzlement secret.
Officials at St. Andrews would not comment on the case because of pending litigation and the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Financial crimes are very common according to Barth, especially among small businesses and nonprofits.
"Look at what happened with Enron," he said. "If it can happen to a multimillion corporation it can easily happen to a small business."
Small businesses are more vulnerable, according to Barth, as there is typically a large amount of trust placed upon the bookkeeper or accountant.
"The best prevention is having multiple eyes reviewing everything," he said. "The extra accountability serves as a deterrent for those considering stealing from their employer."
Barth also said that reporting embezzlement is the best thing a business can do once it is discovered.
"I understand how a business can be shy to report such crimes, as they fear the negative reaction from the community," he said. "But by keeping quiet the culprit gains confidence to continue committing the same crime again."
Bussey entered a not-guilty plea Dec. 9 and was released on a $10,000 bond. If found guilty she faces up to 20 years in prison and must repay the stolen money.

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