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Greed is no respecter of persons; Y grad., convicted felon shares her cautionary tale

Published: Saturday, March 5 2011 11:29 p.m. MST

In her small hometown of Preston, Idaho, Cattani ran track and played softball and basketball. She also helped her volleyball team win the state championship in 1984, which led to a volleyball scholarship from BYU, where she played from 1984 to 1987.

After graduating from BYU in business management and psychology, Cattani was eager to move beyond the confines of Preston and Provo, and to take a break from the rigors of sports practices and homework.

She set out for Atlanta on the advice of a cousin and immediately fell in love with the city, quickly signing up with the Atlanta Snow Ski Club and the Atlanta Water Ski Club, and taking up road racing and mountain biking.

Her first serious job was at a new, small and specialized human resources consulting firm as one of their first employees.

Likeable, outgoing and efficient, Cattani was handed more and more responsibilities, moving from upgrading the bookkeeping system and implementing benefits packages to hiring additional staff and training clients. Eight hour shifts became 10-, 12- and 14-hour days, and Cattani remained constantly "on call." Yet she was happy, and enjoyed her bosses and their generous bonuses.

Her career, and that of her now ex-husband's, whom she had met in Atlanta, also launched them into fast, high-stakes circles.

They were invited guests at the White House, dined with George and Barbara Bush and attended birthday parties in the homes of U.S. senators. Taking in an Atlanta Braves' game meant sitting next to then-general manager John Schuerholz in his sky box, a much more pleasant experience when the team was winning, Cattani said.

"It was certainly an ego thing," she said. "They were all so much older than me, and I was too young and naive to really step back. I just figured I should have everything they have, even though they were 50 and I was 27."

The fraud triangle

Halle and other fraud experts point out that by now, the first two pieces of the "fraud triangle" — opportunity and pressure — were firmly in place.

The third piece materialized when Cattani realized that their Christmas plane tickets to Utah had been put on her corporate — not personal — American Express.

Not a big deal, she thought. I'll straighten it out when I get back.

But she didn't.

Weeks passed and she said she'd reimburse the company from her next check. Or the next one. But it never happened.

So she began rationalizing, remembering how much of her time on the ski slopes had been spent on conference calls, and that she'd dealt with daily phone calls from the staff. It hadn't really been a vacation, she told herself.

Now, the fraud triangle was complete.

And with one situation justified, it was easy to keep going.

The gray areas got bigger and blacker.

If the owners called and asked that she go let out their dog because they were snowed in on a business trip, she would make the drive, wrestle with the dog who hated her and then pad her check with hazard pay.

After Cattani had her first child and began working from home, it made sense that the company should pay for her new office furniture and even food and gas, since she was still traveling so often for them.

She began making dummy invoices, reimbursing herself multiple times and adjusting the books along the way to make everything "fit."

Along with opportunity, pressure and rationalization, Kennesaw State University accounting professor Dana Hermanson and his colleague David T. Wolfe have proposed a "fraud diamond," which adds the facet of "capability," which Cattani had in spades.

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