So, Tim, where have you been? Last of May and June
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
I broke my ankle.
My wife was fired from her job.
I decided to kill my dog.
Oh and I traded in the red pick up for a newer blue pickup.
When my wife told me she'd been fired, I asked her what next?
"Sell the house, buy a motorhome and go to Texas, I suppose."
But first she had to meet her boss for breakfast.
And I warned you earlier ... it's not that simple.
When she got home from breakfast Tuesday morning, she looked positively devastated. Her boss had accused her of stealing company funds. She believed that she was still owed a substantial amount of last year's bonus still. She hired an employment attorney on her way home.
Here is what my wife did each year. She was the Executive Vice President (XVP) of Finance in her company. She knew the position of the company financially. She chose to be the lowest compensated XVP because she knew the financial position of the company better than even the owner of the company. Half of her and the other XVPs' compensation packages consisted of annual bonuses. Again hers was the lowest.
To help with cash flow, she would not take her bonus in a lump sum. She would set it aside and take it when she needed it. She also would wire the money to our account. It was less expensive than having ADP cut the check.
The procedure was that she would inform the comptroller of her wish to withdraw some money, he would check and approve it, the person below him would order the transfer and her boss would sign it. Then the comptroller was supposed to notify ADP for records.
That is how it was supposed to be working over the previous eleven years.
The next day, the employment attorney wanted to see both of us. At the meeting was a criminal attorney. This was serious.
The employment attorney told us the situation. Over the previous eleven years, my wife appeared to have misappropriated over one million dollars. That was a truly bizarre number. her boss was going to file an insurance claim that would trigger a criminal investigation.
This was fraud and embezzlement of the highest degree.The penalty carries up to 25 years in prison. I felt sick.
Oddly enough, she was the one who browbeat her boss into taking out that very insurance policy. She was the one who contracted the audit that found the problem.
And we didn't have the money. Our 401k, it turned out was paltry, low six figures. Even on her regular compensation we should have had a million dollars. Our house had equity of only 20% of its value. We had lived in the house for 25 years! And we had consumer credit debt in excess of 100K.
If she was taking care of her company's books as badly as she was taking care of ours, then I fully understood how it could have happened.
We took the evidence home and ordered our banking record for the period. I don't understand this stuff, but I spotted it right away. She wasn't hiding anything. It was right there in plain sight.
How could she have done this?
Because she was trusting her underlings to balance the books properly at the end of the year. She was signing off on them without going through them in depth. And her comptroller was supposed to say to her, "Whoa, you can't take anymore bonus because it's all gone." And he never did.
Her boss told a different story. When he questioned the comptroller, he claimed that he did tell her. And she threatened to fire him if he told the boss. He told her every year that she was overdrawn and she threatened to fire him if it wasn't hidden.
I can understand that story. Not that my wife bullied him. She isn't a bully. She isn't a liar. She isn't dishonest.
But if I were him and it was revealed that I had done my job so miserably, I would do my best to cover my butt with a lie.
But let's look at that. If my wife told the truth, that he had never told her she was overdrawn and that he wasn't balancing the books, he would be fired and possibly civilly or even criminally liable. So he made up the story that my wife was a bully.
But suppose he told the truth. He told her every year for eleven years that she was over drawing in her bonus set-aside and that he threatened to go to the boss with the evidence, who would have been fired? Him or my wife? So if I had been the boss I would have concluded that he wasn't balancing the books, he would be fired and possibly civilly or even criminally liable.
But instead, he was taken at his word. I mean, who you gonna believe, some guy who was bullied by a 60 year old thief or some guy covering his butt so he wouldn't lose his job because of some impropriety that would make him unemployable in his chosen field?
But it doesn't matter. Either way, she took money that was not hers and she spent it. But ...
She truly did not know she was doing it.
But why didn't she see it when she balanced our check books?
Because she looked to see if the account was balanced each month and if it was she let it go. And it always was. She never really looked at the actual numbers that were coming in and going out.
So her boss's books were a disaster and our books were a disaster. She was working 60 to 80 hour weeks trying to grow the company and she didn't have time for our finances. But she never asked for help. And I didn't see it. except when the calls would start and she would "take care of the bills." It turned out that that was by making a draft on her "bonus."
After about two weeks of combing through the wreckage that was out financial life I went into her.
"I believe that you are telling the truth that you did not knowingly steal more than a million dollars over an eleven year period. Only because you also so totally mismanaged our accounts that even without this we would be in a mess.
"But if I was on a jury and I heard your story and looked at these books, I would convict you in a heartbeat. And if they asked the jury for a sentencing recommendation, I would vote for five to ten years. And only that because of your age and health."
Then "What do we do now?"
First we talked to the prosecutor. We didn't want the spectacle of her being frog-marched across the driveway to a police car. He assured us that she would be permitted to surrender when the time came. He also told us that the maximum penalty was 25 years. "But you won't get anything near that."
And the entire time, he was looking at me. What was he thinking? Was he trying to figure out is I was involved? Was he wondering how I could possibly stay with her? Or was he thinking that I was about the dumbest dupe in history?
Remember, I know this woman better than anyone else in the world. We have been married for 42 years; known each other since high school.
We had another meeting with her boss. This time we signed settlement papers with the understanding that our cooperation would go a long way with the prosecution. My name was included in the action. To say we were signing under duress was an understatement. We thought "Anything to make things go better with the DA."
We signed over her 401K and the proceeds from the house sale when that happened. After that, it was all Monopoly money.
The next day I took my dog to the vet, only her regular doctor was not there. We got one who essentially scolded me for putting down "a geriatric dog for convenience." Broken leg, wife going to prison, selling my house and moving to an apartment ... yeah, maybe I was killing her for convenience and maybe I had seen her suffer too much already and it was causing me to suffer and I didn't need any more suffering right now in my life. "Fine, look, if you think I'm a bad man for doing this, you take her home and nurse her back to youth." I paid my bill and I left.
The staff sent me a very nice sympathy card. Life (and death) goes on.
On June 9, she woke me up with a text message. Carolyn had a boy, five days early. 15 minutes of pushing. Remember? I was going to go to Boulder to help my son? Yeah, live goes on.
I spent several days with the covers pulled up to my eyes. Finally, I had to decide to not do that. That way lay depression. I sat down and started a job search.
We asked permission to travel to Colorado to visit the family the week before July 4 and the DA told us we were free to do anything we wanted to do. Dave had a camper trailer, pop-up, he wanted us to bring out to him so we drove. Stayed in South Indy Super 8. It was a nice trip. Dave paid for the trip. It reminded us of when we were kids (remember we were high school sweethearts, married at age 20 and 19) taking road trips. We hadn't done anything like that in ages. During the ride, my wife was perusing motorhome catalogs.
"What are you doing."
"Well, if I get probation, maybe I can serve it in Texas."
"Honey, when we get back, we will have to declare bankruptcy."
"I can dream."
Life goes on.
Through all this, I observed my 62nd birthday and we had our 42 wedding anniversary. Dave asked me what my plans were with Mom.
"Well, Dad she totally "fouled" up your life."
And I told him, "Honor and cherish, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse til death we do part.
"Son, what part of that do you not understand."
He was crying then. "Dad, you're my hero. And Mom might not say it to you, but you are her knightinshiningarmor." Dave was a knight-in-shining-armor one year for halloween and that was all he talked about. He said it the same way.
"Well, don't tell me what a role model I am. Tell Carolyn. She needs to know what kind of man I raised."
Life. Goes. On.
So what was next? What happened finally?
Well, let's just say life goes on. Tomorrow.
But I told you. It's not a simple story. Draw your own conclusions. Call me a deluded fool. I have called myself that many times.
I am only telling the story to get it out of me. But behind me I have drawn a line. I cannot look over that line and wonder what if? could I have done better? second guess? I have to look only forward.
This story seems to be heading for an unhappy ending. But it is not. Because ...
Life goes on.