A news story out of North Carolina proves that regular audits may not be enough to prevent embezzlement, and that longtime medical office employees aren't necessarily trustworthy. According to The Star newspaper, Marlene Rice Hoyle, 45, has been charged with embezzling $1.2 million from Jones Family Practice, where she worked for nearly 20 years, most recently as office manager.
Hoyle, who pleaded guilty to five felonies on June 6, has been sentenced to four to five years in prison, according to the superior court clerk's office, with at least five years supervised probation following her release. Judge James J. Morgan also ordered Hoyle to pay more than $1 million in restitution, $100,000 of which she has already paid voluntarily.
Although colleagues had long suspected Hoyle of stealing, they were unable to produce concrete proof until she was absent from the office, Dr. Stephen Jones said in court. Thus, she got away with the theft for at least 11 years.
Hoyle's attorney, Harrell Canning, told reporters that his client had suffered from breast cancer and other problems during her employment at the practice, while Cleveland County District Attorney Rick Shaffer revealed that Hoyle currently has nothing to show for the money she embezzled.
Shaffer's advice to other practices and small businesses: "No matter how much you trust someone, or how long they have been in your employment, you should still have mechanisms to check and verify the finances of the business. Because what happens, and what is not unusual to happen, is people become so much like family or friends to the employer that they give them a degree of trust they do not deserve."