$724,000 theft scheme alleged; Former auction house receivables clerk indicted.

Byline: Linda Bock

WORCESTER - A Worcester grand jury returned indictments against a Hudson woman Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than $724,000 worth of cash and auctioning goods from her former employer.

Joanne Shea, 72, is charged with larceny of more than $250, and making false entries in corporate books.

The state attorney general's office began an investigation in October 2006, after Ms. Shea's alleged misconduct was reported by her former employer, Skinner Inc., an antiques dealer and auction house in Bolton.

Skinner detected the alleged theft as part of its internal investigation into irregularities involving and limited to this individual and fired her immediately, according to a statement the company released yesterday.

Authorities allege that from 1993 through 2006, while working as an accounts receivable clerk for her employer, Ms. Shea allegedly stole money and goods from the auction house by using a complex "lapping" scheme.

In some instances, Ms. Shea received cash payments from customers for auction items, but rather than depositing the cash payments into the company's accounts, authorities allege that Ms. Shea would keep the cash for herself. Investigators say that to cover the missing cash deposits, Ms. Shea covered the paid cash invoices she stole by applying incoming check payments of equivalent amounts on the company's books. Upon receipt of these check payments, Ms. Shea allegedly deposited the payments into the company's account, but would apply it to the "open," or unpaid, cash payment she had stolen previously. According to authorities, Ms. Shea would then use subsequent check payments to cover the previously deposited but "open" check payments. Even when misallocating payments, authorities allege, Ms. Shea would provide accurate information to the company's inventory system to ensure that paid customers...

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