South Dakota office manager charged with embezzlement following AP audit

A recent accounts payable audit revealed that the former office manager for Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Ward Enterprises had misappropriated approximately $118,000 over a span of four years, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

After business owner Joe Ward noticed discrepancies in 22 payroll checks, Teresa Lynn Peterson turned herself in to the local police department and admitted transferring company funds to her personal account and awarding herself unauthorized raises.

She was charged with aggravated grand theft by embezzlement of more than $100,000 and grand theft by embezzlement of more than $1,000. She will likely face time in jail if convicted.

"The day before I found out, I'd have told you she was one of the most honest people I'd ever met," Ward told the newspaper. "I used to give her my own money to take to the bank. I trusted her completely."

Although company owners may see no reason to be suspicious of trusted employees, a system of checks and balances that includes regular accounts payable audits and requires more than one person to sign off on checks can help combat fund misappropriation.

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