Lessons for small businesses after a Pinellas theft arrest - WRBL

Lessons for small businesses after a Pinellas theft arrest

Posted: Updated:
Laura Spaulding Laura Spaulding
One of the checks Julie Cockrum is accused of forging One of the checks Julie Cockrum is accused of forging
HERNANDO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Laura Spaulding is used to crime scenes.

Her company, Spaulding Decon, is often called in to clean up sites involving homicides, hoarding and other incidents.

But this spring, she discovered signs of a crime scene close to home and surprises that proved to be some tough lessons for the small business owner.

Spaulding says she made the discovery while looking for something in her online bank records.

"I clicked on the image and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that's not my signature,'" said Spaulding, president of Spaulding Decon.

Spaulding says she discovered her employee, Julie Cockrum, had been writing checks out to herself and forging Spaulding's signature. The checks, from Spaulding Decon and another company account, totaled about $40,000.

Cockrum is charged with forgery and grand theft. Her attorney declined comment for the case.

After Cockrum's arrest, Spaulding learned her one-time staff accountant also had a felony worthless check warrant for her arrest in Tennessee.

Spaulding said she had ordered a background check on Cockrum before hiring her, but the warrant didn't show up on that report. Hire Right, the California-based company Spaulding used for the background check, did not return multiple messages from News Channel 8.

"I would have never hired her if I would have known that," Spaulding said. "I told them, I was like, you just made me lose $40,000."

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners said while it can't comment on details of a specific case, warrants are considered in a pre-employment background screening on a case-by-case basis by background screening professionals in accordance with state and federal law."

Private investigator R.J. Trasorras, who is not involved in this case, said warrants aren't automatically included in searches, which are more like an a la carte system.

"It's always best to get very clear instruction and clarification on both ends of what's being ordered," he said. "If you come and solicit a client and say, ‘I'll do a background check,' and there's really nothing else, then of course you're going to assume I'm getting everything under the sun."

Separate searches have to be run in different states to get various pieces of information on the person you're researching, he said.

Cockrum's warrant in Williamson County, TN was issued in 2010, before Cockrum started working at Spaulding Decon. Searches through the Williamson County Sheriff's Office on an individual in that county would show warrants issued by that agency, a sheriff's office spokeswoman said.

Dealing with the financial fallout of the alleged theft, Spaulding got two more surprises.

She says her insurance company told her the incident wasn't covered because she didn't have "employee dishonesty insurance.  And her bank, Bay Cities Bank, only offered to reimburse for $5,000 of the nearly $40,000 in checks that got through the system, Spaulding said.

"I just assumed this was a normal thing, banks have insurance for this type of thing and they would reimburse their clients," Spaulding said. "And I was very wrong."

In a letter provided to News Channel 8 by Spaulding, an attorney representing the bank told her attorney that, "Even in this small business, there should have been some procedures and safeguards put in place which would have precluded these forgeries from occurring, or insured that if they did they were discovered quickly."

Spaulding, however, says Cockrum was removing the check images from bank statements before she saw them, preventing her from picking up on the forgeries. Spaulding says she believes the bank is responsible for reimbursing for at least the last 30 days of the incident, totaling more than $5,000.

Bay Cities Bank did not return multiple messages left by News Channel 8.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Florida Hospital North Pinellas: Not responsible for 96-year-old patient's missing dentures

    Florida Hospital North Pinellas: Not responsible for 96-year-old patient's missing dentures

    Thursday, July 24 2014 4:56 PM EDT2014-07-24 20:56:22 GMT
    Ella Mae Hess, age 96, wasn't thinking about her dentures when an ambulance rushedher to Florida Hospital North Pinellas last April after she took a bad fall at the Coral Oaks senior living facility in Palm Harbor.
    Ella Mae Hess, age 96, wasn't thinking about her dentures when an ambulance rushedher to Florida Hospital North Pinellas last April after she took a bad fall at the Coral Oaks senior living facility in Palm Harbor.
  • Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:34 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:34:46 GMT
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
  • Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:53 AM EDT2014-07-24 10:53:01 GMT
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
  • NewsMore>>

  • New jobs on tap for Pinellas as loss looms

    New jobs on tap for Pinellas as loss looms

    Thursday, July 24 2014 7:09 PM EDT2014-07-24 23:09:34 GMT
    File Photo: Gov. Rick ScottFile Photo: Gov. Rick Scott
    Gov. Rick Scott is expected to take part in an event marking the expansion at GE Energy Management in Clearwater.The expansion will create about 250 jobs, according to a news release from the governor's office.Gov. Scott often attends events connected to job creation, an issue he has made central to his administration and his re-election campaign.
    Gov. Rick Scott is expected to take part in an event marking the expansion at GE Energy Management in Clearwater.The expansion will create about 250 jobs, according to a news release from the governor's office.Gov. Scott often attends events connected to job creation, an issue he has made central to his administration and his re-election campaign.
  • Trial for man accused of throwing, killing baby continues

    Trial for man accused of throwing, killing baby continues

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:02:31 GMT
    Richard McTear in court Thursday (Pool photo)Richard McTear in court Thursday (Pool photo)
    A Hillsborough County deputy testified about pictures he took of Jasmine Bedwell, following an argument between her and her former boyfriend Richard McTear, after her baby was missing.
    A Hillsborough County deputy testified about pictures he took of Jasmine Bedwell, following an argument between her and her former boyfriend Richard McTear, after her baby was missing.
  • Elderly Tampa woman's dog stolen from yard, police say

    Elderly Tampa woman's dog stolen from yard, police say

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:50 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:50:09 GMT
    Tampa Police are looking to find the dog that was allegedly stolen right in front of the 86-year-old victim.
    Tampa Police are looking to find the dog that was allegedly stolen right in front of the 86-year-old victim.
Powered by WorldNow

1350 13th Avenue
Columbus, GA 31901

Telephone: 706.323.3333
Fax: 706.327.6655
Email: news@wrbl.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.