MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis business owner says her life was turned upside down after her bookkeeper embezzled more than $1 million.
Ellen Isaacman and her husband started Good Advertising with a friend 41 years ago, but she says a bookkeeper took less than half that time to almost destroy it, after embezzling more than $1 million.
“From day one, she was stealing from us,” Isaacman said.
Isaacman says they hired Karen Crutchfield of Southaven as their bookkeeper in 2013 through a hiring agency, and Crutchfield soon convinced them to let all the bank statements go to her email.
“That made it super easy for her to cook the books,” Isaacman said. “There was over $635,000 in forged checks, wire fraud. She was in charge of payroll. So she was paying our employees and one day, of course, the IRS came and said, ‘You know, Miss Isaacman and you’re pulling out money for your employees but you’re not paying the IRS.'”
That’s when everything came to light for Isaacman. She contacted authorities.
“When all this came to fruition we discovered that from day one she was paying herself $10,000 more a year than what we offered her,” Isaacman said. “All-in-all she had taken $1,058,000 from good advertising.”
Crutchfield’s case was in federal court last week. The indictment says she created false invoices, fictitious vendors, and 620 fraudulent checks that totaled $662,000 dollars.
It says she used company credit cards to pay personal expenses and get cash advances, and she even used the business owner’s personal information to apply for loans.
“She took out a loan from a funding company in my name with her email address associated with it, and my house is collateral. And she took another $85,000 that way,” Isaacman said.
Crutchfield was indicted by a federal grand jury last April and pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and filing a false tax return.
A federal judge sentenced Crutchfield to 75 months in jail and ordered her to pay more than $1 million in restitution to her former employer.
Meanwhile, Isaacman had to let employees go, move to a much smaller office space, and is now trying to get any new business she can.
“We’re just, you know, getting on our feet and continuing on in hopes that we can teach a lesson to somebody that they don’t trust somebody 100%,” Isaacman said. “You know, as much as I thought I could trust her.”
She has this advice for other business owners.
“Put measures in place, get yourself audited, and at least every other year. So look at the processes,” Isaacman said.