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Rip-Off Alert: Firm put too much trust in one employee

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 8/21/2013 6:23 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- How could one employee steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company? As we see in this Rip-Off Alert, the door was wide open for a thief.

Brenda Helpling was a 20-year employee of Frake’s Engineering.

“She was the controller, so she controlled the finances and the bills for the company,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Kenneth Miller.

That was the problem. Helpling was the only person overseeing company finances, which made it easy for her to steal $400,000.

“She created fictitious accounts in order to pay her own bills and gambling expenses,” Miller said.

The company realized there was a problem when Helpling went on vacation and another employee noticed discrepancies.

“Her back-up was looking at some of the payments, and she looked at the bills and realized a lot of the bills weren’t for companies they did business with,” Miller said.

The company went to police and postal inspectors, who say Helpling’s gambling problem helped them track her down.

“We followed the money trail, and it led to Brenda Helpling and her accounts,” Miller said. “We also went to the casinos and looked at her credit card payments.”

Postal inspectors advise all business owners to get an annual audit done by an outside accounting firm.

“A company should always have checks and balances in place and not one person,” Miller said. “Always check to see where money is going.”

Helpling was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison on mail fraud charges.
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