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Woman pleads innocent to felony by swindle

A Bemidji woman accused of embezzling nearly $115,000 from Newby's Liquor Inc. has pleaded innocent in Beltrami County District Court to felony theft by swindle.

Shanon Anelle Erickson, 32, appeared Monday before District Judge Paul Benshoof. Her next court date is June 30.

According to the criminal complaint, Erickson was hired as manager of Newby's Liquor in 1999.

Erickson was responsible for conducting the daily reconciliation of the store's cash receipts with the records of sales kept on the cash register in the store, according to the complaint. She also was responsible for preparing a bank deposit slip on a daily basis for the cash receipts, and personally made the bank deposit on Saturdays and Sundays, the complaint states.

In the fall of 2005, the owners discovered the liquor store's unexpected cash losses and undertook an examination of the financial records from 2000-2005, the complaint states.

The examination revealed that a pattern of discrepancies between the cash receipts and the bank deposit occurred on Saturdays and Mondays, according to the complaint. On a weekly basis, both deposits were hundreds of dollars short of the related daily receipts for those days, the complaint states.

The owners also discovered handwritten voided transactions on the "master tape" that were virtually equivalent to the difference between the recorded receipts and the bank deposit, according to the complaint. The handwriting had been forged to resemble handwriting styles of clerks at the store, the complaint states.

The owners suspected that Erickson had been falsifying the cash register tapes and daily records to conceal her embezzlement of almost $2,000 per month in cash during a period of several years, according to the complaint.

After Erickson left on a Saturday night, one of the owners tested this suspicion by entering the business and auditing the day's receipts to calculate the sum that should be deposited by Erickson in the bank the following Monday, according to the complaint. Erickson allegedly came in Monday, did her own audit of the receipts and made the deposit. The deposit showed almost exactly $200 short of the figure the owner calculated, the complaint states.

The owners confronted Erickson about the discrepancy and she gave no explanation, so she was fired, according to the complaint. Immediately following Erickson's termination, the persistent pattern of substantial voided transactions and cash discrepancies between receipts and deposits ceased, the complaint states.

The owners hired a certified public accountant and performed a fraud investigation on records from Jan. 1. 2000, to Dec. 31, 2005, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, the CPA stated in her report, "In my opinion, based on the information that I considered, my inquiries, the procedures I performed and my professional judgment and experience, Erickson did commit theft and wrongfully obtained monies from Newby's Liquor, Inc. In my opinion, she embezzled monies totaling at least $114,781.08 from Newby's between 2000-2005 by taking cash from the daily store sales, altering the main cash register tape by voiding transactions in amounts approximately equal to the amount of cash stolen and by altering the daily sales summary report to exclude the stolen cash from the daily deposit."