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Former accounting office manager faces theft charges

Authorities: Escrow money disappeared over several years

POSTED: July 20, 2008 5:03 a.m.
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Miles

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A Dahlonega woman accused of stealing more than $93,000 from her Dawson County employer was arrested last week.

The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office issued 22 warrants July 1 for the arrest of Vivian L. Miles, 44, after a two-month investigation.

Authorities say she allegedly funneled $93,300 from an escrow account of a local accounting firm where she had worked for more than seven years.

Warren Pennington CPA, who owns the business, said he began to notice discrepancies as far back as 2004, but was assured by Miles, his office manager, that she’d take care of everything.

“She told me a former employee was to blame and said she would work to fix the problem,” he said.

Pennington later said his mistake was being too busy to investigate the discrepancies himself.

Dawson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Kimbel, the department’s white-collar crimes investigator, began looking in to the thefts May 1, a day after Miles last showed up for work.

Pennington said Miles quit when she failed to return to work on April 30.

Warrants signed by Dawson County Chief Magistrate Judge Johnny Holtzclaw were issued for Miles’ arrest late last Tuesday afternoon.

An arrangement was made for Miles to turn herself in to authorities, and bond was set at $35,000, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Tony Wooten said.

Authorities think Miles siphoned the funds from escrow accounts set up to pay payroll taxes for several of Pennington CPA’s clients.

Warrants say the unauthorized transactions, ranging from $1,000 to $9,000, began July 1, 2006 and continued on the first of each month for the next 22 months.

Wooten said Miles was transferring the money to three individuals through direct deposit into their bank accounts.

Although warrants have been issued for thefts totaling $93,300, Pennington said close to $180,000 is missing from his business accounts.

Pennington described Miles as his most trusted employee and said he left running the business up to her. When problems would arise, Miles would take care of them, Pennington said.

It was not until clients informed Pennington that their payroll taxes had not been paid to the Internal Revenue Service that he began to suspect an internal problem.

The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the case, Wooten said.

He would not comment on if additional charges are expected against Miles or anyone else.

While no others have been charged, Pennington said his hope is to see each individual responsible held accountable.

“Small businesses can’t survive after something like this happens,” said Pennington, who has since faced foreclosure on his Hwy. 53 office building and his home in Jasper as a result of the lost revenue.

The accounting firm is now operating from a smaller office in Bailey Towers with half the staff.

Miles was released on $35,000 bond July 2, according to jail records.

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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