Hopewell woman accused of theft
Former employee of Hollidaysburg firm allegedly used nearly $83K to pay own bills
A former 20-year employee of a Hollidaysburg business faces charges after being accused of stealing thousands of dollars over several years.
Julie S. Ott, 48, of Hopewell was arraigned Tuesday on felony theft, receiving stolen property and forgery charges after a Hollidaysburg Borough police investigation into suspected theft at MultiComm.
According to the charges, the owners of the company contacted police in early January to report they suspected Ott of stealing. Ott was the office manager and was responsible for tracking payments from the company and an audit had revealed discrepancies, the owners reported to police.
Ott allegedly forged the signature of one of the owners to write company checks that she used to pay her own expenses, particularly credit card bills.
Ott tried to hide the unauthorized payments by assigning the check numbers to legitimate business payments, but a comparison between the check numbers recorded in the company’s bookkeeping software program to the actual checks indicated the payments were actually for non-authorized expenses.
Police indicated the theft spanned from 2016 through 2019, with a total of $82,952.79 taken through 105 forged checks. In 2016, Ott allegedly wrote 12 checks for a total of $7,112.54; in 2016 and in 2017, there were 17 checks written for a total of $14,203.04.
The number of checks increased after that, with 32 checks for a total of $24,337.13 in 2018 and 44 checks totaling $37,300.08 in 2019, according to police.
Ott was confronted by the owners through text messages a few days later. Police said Ott acknowledged the missing money, promised to pay it back and asked that police not be called.
Ott was then fired, and when the owners were cleaning out her desk, they found two forged company checks in envelopes that were ready for the mail.
One envelope contained a payment to Capital One and the other a payment to Best Buy and both included statements addressed to Ott, police contend.
When Ott was questioned by police, she allegedly admitted to forging the checks and said she was using the money she embezzled to pay off her credit card debt. She allegedly told police forging the signature was easy because she had worked there 20 years and was authorized to sign the owner’s name for legitimate business purposes.
Police also brought in a forensic document examiner to look at the forged checks. After comparing the checks to handwriting samples provided by the business, the forensic examiner concluded it was Ott’s handwriting on the printed portions of the check but because of a lack of samples of Ott’s own signature, he couldn’t definitively say she had signed the owner’s name.
Ott remains free on an unsecured $50,000 bond and a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner is scheduled for May 5.