Photo courtesy of Vets For Less website

Photo courtesy of Vets For Less website

Ex-bookkeeper accused of embezzling cash from Federal Way animal clinic

Former Vets For Less owners find discrepancies.

The cat’s out of the bag.

A former bookkeeper of the Vets For Less animal clinic in Federal Way has been charged for allegedly embezzling more than $34,500 from the former business.

Cazzeri Leigh Martinez (formerly Upton), 36, was charged on Aug. 14 with one count of first-degree theft for allegedly failing to deposit $34,514.55 into the Vets For Less bank account between the time period of Jan. 4, 2018 to Aug. 11, 2018, according to charging documents from the King County Prosector’s Office.

The clinic, located at 1115 S. 348th St. #D, was previously owned by Dr. Jeffrey Miller and his wife, Sheila Miller, before the couple sold the business to the corporation VCA in August 2018. The clinic has since been renamed as the VCA Panther Lake Animal Hospital.

Martinez remained employed with VCA Panther Lake for a period of time as a manager, and is now listed as Office Manager on the website of Pet Care Center at Luna Park in Seattle. Martinez has no other criminal history.

The charging documents state:

Martinez was hired at Vets For Less in February 2014 and promoted to bookkeeper in May 2017, where she was responsible for the daily bank deposits in addition to providing bookkeeping/accounting services for Vets For Less.

When the Millers sold their business in August 2018, Martinez was paid a $2,000 bonus on her final paycheck to finish up the final bookkeeping and compile the final reports required for the Millers’ 2018 corporate taxes.

Martinez continued to work at the clinic for the new clinic owners as the clinic manager.

After the previous owners sold their business, they assumed control of the business accounts and noticed about $30,000 was missing, in addition to a cash advance that showed the owners owed $7,218.20 to the bank. The cash advance was activated after Martinez had paid Dr. Miller a disbursement of $75,000, leading to an overdraft that grew over time.

Dr. Miller reported that between Sept. 10, 2018, and Oct. 9, 2018, Martinez “tried to correct the checkbook and account for the missing money,” but was unsuccessful in matching the numbers to what was reflected in the actual bank statements, documents stated.

In one instance, Martinez allegedly updated the August/September 2018 portion of the spreadsheet and faxed two versions of it to the Millers that showed two different balances between each version. A third, later version also showed balance discrepancies.

Evidence shows the actual amount that would have been in the Millers’ account reflected about $52,870.80 less than what Martinez allegedly had reflected in her third version of the electronic checkbook for August/September, according to documents.

Martinez allegedly stopped all communication with the owners and allegedly never completed the final August 2018 business reports needed for the 2018 corporate taxes.

The owners had a CPA from Bauer/Evans Certified Public Accountants conduct a financial audit into the discrepancy of funds, which the CPA reported: “From what we can tell your bookkeeper was going through the ‘reconciliation process’ for the bank but was not actually reconciling to the bank statements (the internal reconciliation reports do not match with the actual bank statements you provided).”

A breakdown of the cash sales received and funds deposited shows 31 instances of cash sales not deposited in various amounts, culminating to $34,514.55 that was never deposited into the business’s bank account.

Documents state all of the days that deposits were missing cash were days when Martinez “was working in the days immediately after, and she would have been the one both taking the cash deposit to the bank, as well as adding the deposits into the accounting programs and checkbook, and also cross checking the deposit to the daily sales reports to make sure they were correct.”

Prior to Feb. 2018, there was a second bookkeeper working for Vets For Less, but after Feb. 2018, Martinez “was the only person in the practice with access to the bookkeeper computer and accounting programs and database,” and “[Martinez] was in charge of the passwords, and password list, and was supposed to notify [the owners] whenever any passwords were changed.”

After looking into Martinez’s bank accounts, investigators found her statements reflected cash deposits totaling $8,200 during a time frame of June 19, 2018 to Aug. 13, 2018. Between June 16, 2018, and Aug.11, 2018, a total of $9,362.54 in cash went missing from Vets for Less and was not deposited.

“The cash deposits into Martinez’s Wells Fargo account occurred within days of when the Vets for Less cash was not deposited into the Vets for Less business account,” documents said.

On a recorded phone interview with investigators, when questioned about the cash deposits between the time period, Martinez said: “Oh gosh I’m wondering, I may have gotten cash I just can’t remember that seems like an awful lot.”

When informed about the similarities in amount and time frame as the missing cash from Vets For Less, “Martinez had no explanation,” and said “she had never put ‘that amount of cash’ into her account.”

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