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You may have seen one of our past stories on our blog about how the wrong hire can ruin a good company’s reputation. This story is just about the most simple example of why you ALWAYS background check potential employees before you hire. When you read a story like this, it really makes you cringe, because it’s just sad to see. Regardless of the accused intentions or situation, the problem could have been simply avoided had the employer done their due diligence in the hiring process.

History of Offense

Before the most recent case, which will result in a mandatory prison sentence, Melissa Wendt was known as Melissa Kwoka. Public records show the name change occurred in the same year that she was sentenced to one to three years in state prison because she violated her probation on a 2013 Erie County conviction for stealing $102,733 while working as an accountant at Planned Parenthood. 

She wrote herself and her former husband 15 checks over the course of a year, which resulted in a second-degree grand larceny case  and five years of probation, beginning with six months of local jail time.  Wendt then violated probation by failing to pay the money back.

While on bail, awaiting sentencing, the accused admitted to stealing $520 from a friend’s bank account to make her car payment. 

Back in 2002, 11 years before the big 6 figure was taken from Planned Parenthood, she was fired from her secretariat position with the City of Lockport for stealing $212 from the office. She was forced to pay $700 back in restitution and received one year of probation.

Read More: Buffalo News – Longtime Embezzler Headed For Prison Again

Another Chance to Steal

Despite a legitimate string of white collar crimes attached to her name, Wendt was able to secure a position with Audubon Machinery Corp. in North Tonawanda. Wendt was brought on as a receptionist, and slowly but surely was able to slide herself behind the accounting desk. The President and CFO Timothy Blach, served as the company’s controller, and his assistant took over his duties when he left the company for a time. When Blach’s successor left the company, guess who got to move into the controller position?

“A Blow to the Company, To Say the Least”

According to interviews with The Buffalo News, Blach mentioned how due to the company having no revenue, they didn’t have enough revenue to cover a whole staff, and Wendt had become “pretty much the whole show.” He went on to mention how “It obviously slowed the purchasing of raw materials when $200,000 goes missing. It went missing over a period of time.”

Avoidable Situation

Wendt won’t see freedom for a while, as this repeat felon will certainly see jail time. She is sentenced to a prison term of 1 ½ years to three years, along with a restitution order but Blach was not optimistic they would ever see any of the money. 

It can’t be said enough how avoidable this situation was for Audubon.  If background screening was a requirement of the company’s hiring policy and the screening company vetted through all the right channels, under all potential names and counties, this employee should have never been hired. 

When you run a background check on an individual it isn’t just a “part of the process.” It’s a serious part of a process that could impact your business very seriously. If you don’t do it right, you can miss out on details that could cost you money, and significant reputation issues. When hiring, it’s always best to vet your employees with a trusted background check specialist. If you ever have any questions regarding your company’s screening policies, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or fill out our contact form! We are always here to help!