ACFE News

A Slippery Slope to Major Fraud

Ever wondered what it may take to become a fraudster? Where would it all start and where would it all end? Listening to someone who has gone down that path shows how easy it indeed may be.

Diann Cattani, a well known convicted fraudster, regularly describes her own slippery slope to major fraud and how she ended up embezzling over $500,000 from her employers. She wants budding employees to know how much such transgressions can cost them so she regularly speaks to universities around the US about her criminal past.

With a background in business management she joined a start-up company and exclaims, “I didn’t put anything in place with an intent to steal from them, that was not my background, that was not how I was raised. But, I did have a lot of autonomy. Small company privately held, there were a lot of different hats and so there was not a lot of segregation of responsibilities and duties, fiduciary responsibility and because I had demonstrated a great deal of capability, dependability, trustworthiness they wanted to keep the business function under my auspices.”

However, as the company started to quickly grow and she started traveling around the country training all of the zone managers, her job took on a lot of extra roles as well as having to manage her personal life, the travel, the social responsibilities connected with her husband’s career that thrust her into a lot of prestigious opportunities. “I was having dinner at the White House under the Reagan administration having dinner with George and Barbara Bush in Hawaii, I was working with their son on the national Crohn’s colitis fundraising campaign, I was consulting and executive coaching with a lot of Fortune 500 companies so I was just caught in this really fast track life in the fast lane and I liked it.”

The first point that she describes where she crossed the line was actually very innocuous. She was traveling out west on holiday and when she got her travel itinerary she noticed that her company put her personal travel on to her corporate profile American Express card. “It was not a big deal just a simple mistake. I went out west for the holidays and came back and said okay we’ll pay it back. Get that first paycheck and I’ll pay the company back but when I got my first paycheck and I start weighing it out, well you got all these bills from the holidays and the paycheck, okay well next time I’ll pay the company back.” This is where Cattani crossed into a grey area and started down the road of rationalization and building her very own fraud triangle. She started to rationalize the opportunity and pressure and how although she was on holiday with her family, continual voicemails, emails, constant interruption made her decisions much easier to make.

Cattani describes another trip where “We were trying to snow ski and I had to come in for a conference call, very disruptive, okay we’ll just call it a business trip. So, once I crossed that line it became easier to rationalize more and more. I stole over $500,000 from the company who not only gave me a wonderful career opportunity, a fast track, but making what I did more despicable was that they also treated me like family.” Her actions and demise happened over the course of four years. It was very incremental, an incremental descent into bad behavior and that bad behavior became the norm.

After her conscience got the better of her she turned herself in. Cattani served 18 months in federal prison blaming no one but herself for the bad choices she made.

Will you chose to take the slippery slope to major fraud? Only you can decide.

 


Notes:This essay is excerpted from ACFE website.

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