Thursday, November 13, 2014

Former Accountant Of Connecticut Electrical Supply Company Charged With Embezzling $1.6 Million

From the Hartford Courant on 11/13/14:

A former accountant for a Middletown-based electrical supply company was charged Wednesday with embezzling $1.6 million over seven years.

Gale Zolla, 41, of Stevens Lane in Bristol, was charged with one count of first-degree larceny and 327 counts of second-degree forgery. Police said the forgery counts relate to checks she wrote to a fictitious company and deposited into her personal accounts.

After turning herself in Wednesday, Zolla was held in lieu of $250,000 cash bail. At her arraignment, a judge left the cash bail in place, but agreed to allow Zolla to post 10 percent, or $25,000. She remained in custody late Thursday.

Police said that on Feb. 15, Zolla went to the Bristol police department and told officers she had embezzled money from her employer, U.S. Electrical Services, Inc., which is the parent company of Electrical Wholesalers. After determining the business was in Middletown, the case was turned over to Middletown police.

Middletown Det. Jeffrey Laskowski, with assistance from other detectives as well as inspectors in the chief state's attorney's office, began investigating.

Zolla initially told police she'd stolen $800,000 from the company, but as the company audited its accounts it determined the loss was actually $1.66 million. Zolla told police she believed her boss was beginning to suspect she was stealing and that prompted her February visit to Bristol police.
Police said their investigation showed that Zolla wrote herself 470 checks during the time she worked at Electrical Wholesalers, and that she wrote the last check on Feb. 15, the same day she went to Bristol police to turn herself in.
Middletown police obtained search warrants for Zolla's home and bank accounts and said most of the money appears to be gone. Zolla told police she spent the money on landscaping, vacations, vehicles and other household expenses.

Zolla also covered some of the expenses of her wedding with the stolen funds, according to the warrant. She also spent about $100,000 on landscaping at her home, according to the warrant. Bank records "indicate she spent money on vacations, restaurants, furniture and many shopping sprees," according to the warrant.

Police also learned that Zolla used about $12,500 in stolen funds to pay down her credit cards just prior to going to Bristol police headquarters to confess, according to the warrant. She cashed an allegedly forged check for $5,000 the day she went to police and another for $6,264 just after, according to the warrant.

What prompted Zolla to go to police to confess appears to be the efforts of a co-worker at U.S. Electrical Services, Linda Culop, to reconcile several accounts. One account was short about $750,000 for 2012 and 2013, according to the warrant. Culup, a senior accountant, asked Zolla about the discrepancy and Zolla said she'd look into it, according to the warrant.

Over the next several weeks, Culop continued to ask Zolla about the discrepancies, but did not get an answer. She then went to the company's chief financial officer, Robert Canyock, and another employee to show them the problem.

Culop told police that on Feb. 14 she sat down with Zolla and another employee to investigate the shortfall, according to the warrant. Zolla said she was stepping away to get more detail, and then left work. Zolla went to Bristol police the next day.

As U.S. Electrical Services accountants further examined the records, they determined that the company's loss totaled $1.66 million and all of the checks had been cut by Zolla to the fictitious company, according to the warrant.

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