Employee accused of stealing nearly $116K from WCCC bookstore

| Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, 2:32 p.m.

About a month after Susan Brown was promoted from full-time clerk to assistant manager of the Westmoreland County Community College bookstore, she began a scheme to bilk the school out of nearly $116,000 in falsified textbook returns, according to county detectives.

Brown, 58, of 545 Goos Way, Mt. Pleasant, was charged Monday with theft, receiving stolen property and tampering with records for allegedly processing phony textbook returns, pocketing the cash and then manually altering inventory records from January 2008 through Feb. 8, 2012.

Brown admitted to taking money beginning in December 2011, according to a criminal complaint. An attorney representing Brown did not return a call seeking comment on Thursday.

Brown, a 20-year bookstore employee, was suspended with pay and resigned after school officials contacted the district attorney's office in February.

Brown was hired as a part-time bookstore clerk in December 1991 and was hired full time as a clerk in August 2006. She was promoted to assistant manager on Dec. 10, 2007.

In January 2008, detectives said, Brown began ringing up textbook refunds on the cash register, taking the cash for herself, then logging in as an administrator to manually adjust the inventory to match the number of books in stock.

“Obviously it's not a number we're happy with,” said Ron Eberhardt, WCCC's vice president for administrative services. “I wouldn't say we're surprised... . Quite honestly, I would say we're disappointed.”

According to the criminal complaint, Brown's scam was discovered by bookstore Manager Chad Seibel on Feb. 10 after he saw Brown on a security camera take cash from the register and put it into her pocket before leaving for the day.

Seibel then checked the register and found a $266 transaction for a chemistry textbook return, but when he checked the inventory on the shelves and in the back room, the numbers did not match, the complaint alleges.

Using the cash register software program, Seibel could see that Brown logged in as “systemadmin” for each questionable book return, which allowed her to subtract the book from the inventory while covering up the fact that the register indicated a book return.

Seibel told detectives only he and Brown could log in as “systemadmin.”

In May, WCCC hired accountant Jeffrey P. Anzovino of Deluzio & Company in Greensburg to examine other possible thefts. Anzovino traced 213 transactions to Brown totaling $115,809, including nearly $19,000 from Jan. 1 to Feb. 8, 2012.

Eberhardt said WCCC has enhanced its transaction review procedures in the bookstore since the incident, but said a number of controls and triggers already were in place.

The bookstore grosses about $5 million a year, WCCC officials have said, with the average student purchasing five textbooks a semester for a total of $700 to $800.

By taking smaller amounts of money over a period of years, it was more difficult to detect the thefts than if Brown had taken the full amount in one year, Eberhardt said.

“Any larger amounts of money ... I don't want to say make it harder, but yeah, you have to have more specific controls in place to monitor the situation,” he said.

Eberhardt declined to comment on whether the school is trying to recoup the money from Brown, citing the ongoing legal process.

A preliminary hearing for Brown is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. before Hempfield District Judge James Falcon.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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