A hospital in Eau Claire accused a 35-year-old Wisconsin woman of stealing from its patients’ accounts while she worked there as a patient financial services employee. The position carried the responsibility of processing patients’ out-of-pocket payments. As reported by the Chippewa Herald, authorities filed a felony charge against her for theft in a business setting after the hospital presented its accusations to law enforcement.

Generally, when an employer accuses an employee of taking money or property, it has already conducted its own internal accounting investigation. After the hospital determined that its employee may have taken money from the accounts of four patients and made its accusation, police then launched a second investigation to gather evidence related to the alleged theft.

An employer’s internal determination may trigger a criminal investigation

The hospital became aware of the purported theft when a patient called to inquire about an invoice received from her insurance company. While the bill stated that the patient still owed the hospital $8,000 for services, she insisted that she already paid it. The patient had kept her receipt, which she received after she physically came to the hospital and gave $8,000 to an employee to settle the bill.

Allegedly, the defendant took the patient through several hallways and into a secured booth where she could make her payment. Hospital management checked a daily desk log and found that the accounts of three other patients who had come to the hospital to make walk-in payments also showed missing amounts. The defendant’s workstation showed that she had logged into the first patient’s account numerous times to view, print or make a change. The hospital reported its findings to law enforcement.

Law enforcement’s external investigation

When there is substantial evidence to suspect that a theft occurred, law enforcement officials may subpoena an employee’s personal bank account. Bank records showed that on the day the patient came to the hospital to pay her $8,000 bill in person, $2,500 was deposited into the accused employee’s personal bank account. Less than four weeks later, law enforcement noted that she had made another $2,000 deposit into her account.

In order to obtain an embezzlement theft crime conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an employee held a position of trust over their employer’s property or funds. The prosecution must also prove that the employee intentionally breached their duty of trust and took the money from their employer’s possession.