Sixty-seven-year-old woman Anita Collins, worked for eight years in accounts payable for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York as a loyal, unassuming employee. Known for her hard work and volunteer activities, the check-writing she performed as part of her job duties went unquestioned. Recently, however, Ms. Collins was charged with stealing more than $1 million from the archdiocese over the course of seven years.
According to Manhattan prosecutors, Ms. Collins did not live an extravagant lifestyle. What detectives did discover in her modest three-bedroom apartment, however, were a large collection of expensive dolls. The neighborhood mail carrier remarked that Ms. Collins and her daughter, who shares the apartment with her, received “packages like no tomorrow.”
The archdiocese became aware of the problem of the missing money in December, 2011, after the annual audit indicated something was wrong. Ms. Collins was confronted regarding the matter, and was fired thereafter. When the archdiocese initially hired her in 2003, they did not perform criminal background checks as they now do. Since Ms. Collins’s firing and referral to the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R.Vance Jr., it has become apparent that she was previously convicted of grand larceny, and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in another case.
Ms. Collins’s access to the archdiocese’s checkbook allowed her to issue checks in her son’s name, and then would change records to make it appear as if the check were issued to a legitimate vendor. The check amounts were kept to less than $2,500 so supervisor approval was not required as it is for checks of larger amounts. Charged with first-degree grand larceny and falsifying business records, Ms. Collins faces a possible maximum of 25 years in prison.
By not performing a background check, archdiocese staff were not aware of Ms. Collins’s criminal record. Arrested in January 1986 on multiple counts of criminal forgery and grand larceny, she pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor and received three years’ probation. In 1999, Ms. Collins was arrested and charged with stealing at least $46,000 over the course of 16 months from AccuStaff, a Manhattan temporary employment agency. She pleaded guilty to grand larceny in that case, and received five years’ probation, plus required to pay $10,000 in restitution to AccuStaff and perform100 hours of community service. Ms. Collins was still on probation when she was hired by the archdiocese.
Although background checks were not a requirementat the time of hire for Ms. Collins, a search of current employees would have likely exposed her criminal past sooner. Organizations and businesses who rely on employees to perform financial transactions can surely benefit from services such as those provided by backgroundchecks.com. With US OneSEARCH, you get instant results from more than 355 million criminal records from counties, Department of Corrections (DOC), Administration of Courts (AOC) and State Sex Offender Registries covering 49 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Also included are national and international terrorism sources, more than 4.1 million photos, and their proprietary database of previously completed reports. A business or organization should not let itself be exposed to potential criminals with a known background, without protection.
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