The discovery of a non-sequential check made payable to an unapproved vendor by the town of Hardwick, Vermont's electrical department last October prompted a thorough accounts payable audit. This revealed a purported $1.6 million embezzlement scheme masterminded by the office manager, the Burlington Free Press reports.
Joyce Bellavance, who worked for the department for nearly four decades, is believed to have misappropriated the funds over a period of 12 years. She allegedly abused her power as the department's sole accounts manager, deposit-maker and check-writer by using the Hardwick Electric account to pay off a variety of personal expenses, including her daughter's $17,000 wedding reception and $127,000 worth of construction on the family home, according to the news source.
The discovery underscored the need for a system of checks and balances combined with regular accounts payable audits.
The department has since developed a six-page manual that covers office procedures such as payment processing and bank account management, and also establishes internal controls, the newspaper reports.
According to a separate article written by the source, Bellavance's attorney recently indicated that his client plans to claim that she had been suffering from a mental illness during the time period the alleged embezzlement was carried out.