Serial Fraud Shares Traits with Other Types of Crime Sprees

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence programs and forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

Serial crimes, such as murder and arson, have certain characteristics in common with fraud.

According to Certified Fraud Examiner David Anderson of the Philadelphia forensic account services firm of David Anderson & Associates, serial fraudsters tend to start out “small” and their initial crimes may occur in a hasty and sloppy manner.

As time progresses, he said, they learn from their “mistakes,” and the crimes are better planned and better designed to avoid detection of their involvement in the crime.  In addition, Anderson noted, the time period between incidents of the serial crimes may get shorter and shorter as their need for gratification gets stronger and stronger.

There may also be a sudden halt in the serial criminal’s activities or an unusually long period of time between the crimes, he explained, that often is attributed to such factors as incarceration (for another crime), treatment or some other disruptive influence.

Over his years of work as a fraud deterrence expert, Anderson said he has found similar characteristics in frauds. Here are just two examples:

“In one case, the Controller of a medium-sized business found herself short of funds going into a three-day holiday weekend,” he said, going on to say “her solution was to ‘borrow’ from the company’s petty cash.  Because she didn’t consider herself to be a criminal, she left a signed personal check payable to the company for the amount that she “borrowed”.  The next payday, she paid back the funds and took back her check.”

Anderson said the Controller, a month or two later, once again found herself short of funds for several credit card bills.

“She again ‘borrowed’ funds from petty cash,” Anderson said, continuing the explanation, “this time a larger amount, and again left a signed personal check payable to the company for the amount that she ‘borrowed’.”

The cycle, he said, continued at shorter intervals and for larger amounts until she had ‘borrowed’ the full amount of petty cash and was unable to pay it back from her next paycheck.  Her ‘solution’ to this problem was to submit phony expense documentation (such as copies of already reimbursed expenses and phony receipts obtained from the Internet) to cover the ‘borrowed’ amounts she was unable to repay.

“However,” Anderson said, “she feared the sudden jump in her reimbursable expenses would be noticeable, so she began using other methods to obtain funds including paying phony vendors, ghost employees – keeping certain terminated employees on the payroll and splitting paychecks with them – and accounts receivable fraud — writing off the accounts receivables of friends, neighbors and family members who had purchased items from this business – in return for a portion of the written-off amounts.”

Anderson, a Certified Fraud Examiner, said his company’s investigation showed that over time, the amounts and frequency of the fraud grew until it was discovered.  This pattern of growth in amount and frequency, he said, was typical of other frauds the firm has investigated.

In another recent case, Anderson said one family member of a family-owned retail business began embezzling funds from customer invoices for which the customers paid cash.

Because the company had a manual cash register system, the family member removed both cash and the corresponding invoices from the deposit slips and invoices he provided to the accounting clerk who entered the information into the company’s QuickBooks accounting system. He additionally hid the cash shortages by delaying payments to vendors (telling them that business was bad).

“When I investigated the fraud,” Anderson said, “interviews with employees revealed that this family member frequently gambled in Atlantic City.  This led me to suspect that his embezzlement was tied to his gambling losses.”

Because the family member in question was a member of the comp clubs at each of the four casinos at which he gambled, Anderson said he was able to obtain documentation of his daily cash winnings and losses from each casino.  His embezzlement activities generally mirrored his gambling losses.

“During my initial investigation,” Anderson said, “I also noted an 11-month break in his embezzlement activities.  When I matched his embezzlement activities with his gambling wins and losses, I noted that during that same 11-month period, he had consistent net gambling gains from the casinos.  Since he was winning, there was no need for him to embezzle funds.  However, once he lost all these gains, he went back to embezzling funds again.”

If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.