Tag Archives: aggravated theft

Pink Collar Crime PSA Fraud Awareness Week

Recently I presented to a group of fire service administrators. This presentation was about fraud and embezzlement in fire districts. Of course, I had to include some #pinkcollarcrime stories because of the numbers of women stealing from fire districts.

A shout out to Curt Varone http://www.firelawblog.com/ for his help with these numbers. According to iWomen, there are 11,000 female career firefighters and 40,000 volunteers. From the NFPA there are roughly 1.2 million firefighters which translate to women making up roughly 4.25% of the fire service (51,000/1.2 mil). Curt has been keeping track of embezzlement cases in fire districts. Here are his results:

Insider Theft in the Volunteer service

Total cases: 360

Criminal – 188

Civil – 8

Administrative – 164 (disciplinary cases)


Women Involved – 53 (28.2%)

Married Couple – 11

Now, this is not complete but it gives a snapshot of the issue. Women are overrepresented in theft cases as compared to their numbers of employment within fire districts.

As I finish the presentation, a woman in the audience states she knows 5 women in her small community who are pink collar criminals. “I didn’t even realize I knew that many! I didn’t even know it’s a thing.” One of the stories I talk about she knows the family.

This is why I call #pinkcollarcrime the relatable crime. We know them. We work with them. Our kids go to school with their kids. We volunteer with them. These women are much like your friends, neighbors, co-workers. These women are not scary. They are not whom we think of as “bad guys.”

My job is to educate people about fraud. You have to be aware of the employee who may be your biggest threat. In many small businesses, it is she. Never underestimate the smarts, capabilities, and power of a woman.


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Pink collar crime made the KGW news!

I was interviewed this last week by Kyle Iboshi, investigative reporter, for KGW News.  Here is the link:


The word is getting out.

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Get out of jail free card



What is a get out of jail free card? Unfortunately for some, it’s the card your employee has when you catch them stealing from you. The panic from the moment you find out you have been stolen from can become even greater. This is when you confront your employee (remember you need legal and HR help for that) and they turn the whole debacle around to possibly get out of jail and threaten you with disclosure of your dirty little secrets.

What are those dirty little secrets? Do you have two sets of books? Do you write off inappropriate expenses? Do you hire and fire illegally? This is just the start of what the desperate thief will try.

What do you do when this happens? Again, (insert legal advice here from a good attorney who has worked these cases before-not your golfing buddy) you need to process your own personal situation. I never tell someone directly not to file with law enforcement. But as your “fraud coach” I will tell you to take a step back and analyze all the angles.

I had a client once who, as so many do, wanted the perp hung in the town square. The client generally needs to be talked off the ledge. You need to prepare for the process. The process is long and hard and not cheap. You need to think about the potential PR crisis. You need to be ready to take responsibility for your business and other employees.

Tone at the top of course is part of the equation. While there is NEVER a reason for stealing you need to understand the rationalization part of the fraud triangle. When you give your assistant your credit card bill or expense report that is filled with personal expenses realize what you are doing. You are possibly chipping away at their own set of values. When they see you expense a family vacation to ski while attending a work conference they see you cheating and stealing. This can start a slippery slope (pun intended) for them to start stealing.

Most people, in my opinion, do not wake up and say I am going to steal from my boss or my employer. What does happen is they go to work and get a call from a bill collector stating they are late and their car is going to be repossessed, their husband or partner leaves them with a mortgage, their kid texts them about the school ski team they can’t afford and then they start down that path.

So when they get caught they are desperate to not go to jail and break up a family. Everything they have seen taking place at work becomes fair game for them to defend themselves. You need to be prepared for this. How do you prepare for this? Tone at the top. I can’t say that enough. What your employees see in your behavior is incredibly important.

I can’t tell you how hard it is for an employer to go through this. They want to do the right thing but they also feel the need to protect themselves and their business. So what happens is that sweet, conniving little Mary gets off and then goes to the next business. Eventually she will get caught but sometimes it takes awhile.

You set the example for your employees. Be the best example you can be. Set the right tone at the top and maybe she won’t have the get out of jail free card.

If this has happened to you I would love to hear from you. Please email me at kellypaxton503@gmail.com.

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Vegan Bernie Madoff????

Sarma Melngailis appeared to have it all.  I think she did until she didn’t.  Sarma was the darling of the vegan world in NYC.  She was loved by Bill Clinton, Alec Baldwin and many other foodies for her culinary skills.  MeIngailis was the proprietor of Pure Food and Wine in Gramercy.
Sarma is currently sitting in Rikers jail with a $350k bail for an alleged $2 million embezzlement from her own restaurant.  How did this happen?  Many say it happened because of a relationship.  Remember how in Dorothy Zietz’s book she categorized various embezzlers?  Is MeIngailis a Romantic Dreamer or Victim of Pressure or Persuasion?
A Romantic Dreamer according to Zietz is one who is impelled to protect the health or welfare of a loved person.  Zietz also goes on “these women were not primarily concerned with the real needs of significant persons (for example, a need for medical care).  But instead they sought either to preserve for themselves what they considered their most important possession-a husband’s love, or to enhance a relationship with a lover or a relative…these women had also been conditioned to believe that preservation of a relationship with a beloved person justified any necessary sacrifice of personal values or positions of trust.  (Zietz 1981)
Victims of Persuasion or Pressure were women who accepted positions of trust in good faith, but subsequently violated that trust in response to some form of pressure exerted by another person…the coercive demands or fear-inspiring threats of a husband or lover provided the impetus for criminal behavior.  (Zietz 1981)
“It’s the worst nightmare you can think of,” Melngailis revealed to The Post in an exclusive jailhouse interview Saturday morning at Rikers. “If I had terminal cancer, it would be better than this, because at least [then] I did not cause it.” http://nyp.st/20sd2DV courtesy of NY Post.
Although she says she didn’t order Dominos Pizza before her arrest it seems her life started spiraling out of control when she met Anthony Strangis in 2013.  “Things were going well when I was single,” admits Melngailis, though she wouldn’t cite Strangis’ involvement in her downfall.
MeIngailis, 43, appears to be a bit of a cougar to Strangis, 35.  Strangis has previous arrests by law enforcement.  Strangis allegedly posed as a cop in 2005 and also had a couple arrests for Grand Theft.  After Strangis came on the scene, “[Melngailis] would go on more trips. [She] definitely became more elusive, less concerned with the well-being of the company,” says a line cook.
“She’s the vegan Bernie Madoff,” says Benjamin Dictor, attorney for a group of ex-Pure workers. According to the indictment, 84 of them are owed a collective $40,000.
A former director of operations at Pure Food and Wine alleges Strangis and Melngailis stole with a vengeance.  “There’d be times when I’d come in on a Monday and get a text or call from [Strangis], ‘Don’t deposit the money. You have to meet me here with the money,’ ” recalls the director. “I wouldn’t meet him at the company bank. I’d meet him at the CitiBank, where he had a personal account.”
While it’s inarguable that Melngailis got wrapped up with the wrong guy, those “friends” say her carefully cultivated public persona hid some deeper demons.
Her ex-boyfriend Kenney told Page Six in 2005 that Melngailis physically attacked him on multiple occasions.
When Melngailis asked for a vegan diet at Rikers, her request was denied. She says she makes do with peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, apples and fresh-sliced cucumber.
Good people do bad things and bad people do good things.  That is important to remember when  you are a small business owner.  MeIngailis appeared to have it all but then it changed.  Although she was the primary owner of the business the investors and employees have lost out.  It seems there were “pink flags” in her behavior.  It has been said that some women start stealing for a relationship issue.  This may be the case for MeIngailis.  I’m sure we will find out soon enough in the papers.
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It’s Not Getting Any Easier for Women to Become CEOs But It Is For Them to Become Pink Collar Criminals

I saw the Huffington Post headline and immediately was drawn in. The statistics are not great for women to become CEOs. In 2015 only one woman in the U.S became a S&P 500 CEO and it’s not looking good to hold the number at 20 with Marissa Mayer’s current situation.


Female executives landed just 2.8 percent of the new chief executive jobs that opened up last year around the world, according to the analysis of 2,500 global public companies. Put another way, there were 359 open CEO slots last year and women filled just 10. That’s the lowest percentage since 2011.

So what does this have to do with Pink Collar Crime? Well the stats show in 10 year period that women embezzlers outgrew men embezzlers by an increase of 42% over men increasing 2%. This came from the FBI for the period of 1994-2003. Statistics are hard to come by for embezzlement specifically because different jurisdictions may charge embezzlement cases as tax evasion or misdemeanor theft depending on loss. Also throw in the fact so many business owners decide not to contact law enforcement. That will be another post soon.

Why are the numbers increasing for pink collar crime? We have blogged about this before but many more women have entered the work force. Women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households according to Pew Research.

Women may not be breaking the glass ceiling but they are breaking statistics for embezzlement. It’s a growing demographic that won’t stop soon.

So don’t worry about not promoting your best employee to CEO. After all only one woman was hired as a S&P 500 CEO in the US last year. Do worry about them getting on The Ladies of PCC also known as the Pink Collar Hall of Shame.

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