Lessons for small businesses after a Pinellas theft arrest - WFLA News Channel 8

Lessons for small businesses after a Pinellas theft arrest

Posted: Updated:
Laura Spaulding Laura Spaulding
One of the checks Julie Cockrum is accused of forging One of the checks Julie Cockrum is accused of forging
HERNANDO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Laura Spaulding is used to crime scenes.

Her company, Spaulding Decon, is often called in to clean up sites involving homicides, hoarding and other incidents.

But this spring, she discovered signs of a crime scene close to home and surprises that proved to be some tough lessons for the small business owner.

Spaulding says she made the discovery while looking for something in her online bank records.

"I clicked on the image and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that's not my signature,'" said Spaulding, president of Spaulding Decon.

Spaulding says she discovered her employee, Julie Cockrum, had been writing checks out to herself and forging Spaulding's signature. The checks, from Spaulding Decon and another company account, totaled about $40,000.

Cockrum is charged with forgery and grand theft. Her attorney declined comment for the case.

After Cockrum's arrest, Spaulding learned her one-time staff accountant also had a felony worthless check warrant for her arrest in Tennessee.

Spaulding said she had ordered a background check on Cockrum before hiring her, but the warrant didn't show up on that report. Hire Right, the California-based company Spaulding used for the background check, did not return multiple messages from News Channel 8.

"I would have never hired her if I would have known that," Spaulding said. "I told them, I was like, you just made me lose $40,000."

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners said while it can't comment on details of a specific case, warrants are considered in a pre-employment background screening on a case-by-case basis by background screening professionals in accordance with state and federal law."

Private investigator R.J. Trasorras, who is not involved in this case, said warrants aren't automatically included in searches, which are more like an a la carte system.

"It's always best to get very clear instruction and clarification on both ends of what's being ordered," he said. "If you come and solicit a client and say, ‘I'll do a background check,' and there's really nothing else, then of course you're going to assume I'm getting everything under the sun."

Separate searches have to be run in different states to get various pieces of information on the person you're researching, he said.

Cockrum's warrant in Williamson County, TN was issued in 2010, before Cockrum started working at Spaulding Decon. Searches through the Williamson County Sheriff's Office on an individual in that county would show warrants issued by that agency, a sheriff's office spokeswoman said.

Dealing with the financial fallout of the alleged theft, Spaulding got two more surprises.

She says her insurance company told her the incident wasn't covered because she didn't have "employee dishonesty insurance.  And her bank, Bay Cities Bank, only offered to reimburse for $5,000 of the nearly $40,000 in checks that got through the system, Spaulding said.

"I just assumed this was a normal thing, banks have insurance for this type of thing and they would reimburse their clients," Spaulding said. "And I was very wrong."

In a letter provided to News Channel 8 by Spaulding, an attorney representing the bank told her attorney that, "Even in this small business, there should have been some procedures and safeguards put in place which would have precluded these forgeries from occurring, or insured that if they did they were discovered quickly."

Spaulding, however, says Cockrum was removing the check images from bank statements before she saw them, preventing her from picking up on the forgeries. Spaulding says she believes the bank is responsible for reimbursing for at least the last 30 days of the incident, totaling more than $5,000.

Bay Cities Bank did not return multiple messages left by News Channel 8.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Frightened neighbors voice concerns about Pasco mental health ALF

    Frightened neighbors voice concerns about Pasco mental health ALF

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:01 PM EDT2014-08-22 22:01:54 GMT
    In the middle of a New Port Richey subdivision on Langston Ave. white iron gates lead to a large compound surrounded by barbed wire fences. Inside there is a swimming pool, parking lotand several buildings that formerly served as the neighborhood HOA community center.
    In the middle of a New Port Richey subdivision on Langston Ave. white iron gates lead to a large compound surrounded by barbed wire fences. Inside there is a swimming pool, parking lotand several buildings that formerly served as the neighborhood HOA community center.
  • Bradenton apartment complex to be repaired after 8 On Your Side report

    Bradenton apartment complex to be repaired after 8 On Your Side report

    Friday, August 22 2014 4:47 PM EDT2014-08-22 20:47:05 GMT
    Last week, 8 on your side showed you some of the dilapidated conditions inside some units at the Townhouse Park Apartments in Bradenton.Tenants were having problems with mold and rodents.There was also water damage.
    Last week, 8 on your side showed you some of the dilapidated conditions inside some units at the Townhouse Park Apartments in Bradenton.Tenants were having problems with mold and rodents.There was also water damage.
  • 2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    2.2 million bean bag chairs recalled after deaths

    Friday, August 22 2014 11:01 AM EDT2014-08-22 15:01:24 GMT
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photoAbout 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. CPSC photo
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
    About 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled after two children opened them, crawled inside and suffocated to death.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Massachusetts man injured in Pinellas hit-and-run

    Massachusetts man injured in Pinellas hit-and-run

    Saturday, August 23 2014 1:23 PM EDT2014-08-23 17:23:53 GMT
    If you have any information about this incident please contact FHP. If you have any information about this incident please contact FHP.
    Investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol are asking for the public's help in tracking down a hit-and-run driver.The suspect fled the scene of a crash that left a pedestrian in serious condition. The incident occurred just before 2 am Saturday near the intersection of Palm Harbor Blvd. and Alderman Rd.
    Investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol are asking for the public's help in tracking down a hit-and-run driver.The suspect fled the scene of a crash that left a pedestrian in serious condition. The incident occurred just before 2 am Saturday near the intersection of Palm Harbor Blvd. and Alderman Rd.
  • Felon sought in connection with early morning shooting in Winter Haven

    Felon sought in connection with early morning shooting in Winter Haven

    Saturday, August 23 2014 12:24 PM EDT2014-08-23 16:24:48 GMT
    Authorities consider Matthews to be armed and dangerous. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you see him. Authorities consider Matthews to be armed and dangerous. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you see him.
    Investigators with the Polk County Sheriff's Office are on the lookout for a Winter Haven man being sought on armed robbery and attempted murder charges.Brandon Leon Matthews, 29, has an extensive criminal background and is considered armed and dangerous.
    Investigators with the Polk County Sheriff's Office are on the lookout for a Winter Haven man being sought on armed robbery and attempted murder charges.Brandon Leon Matthews, 29, has an extensive criminal background and is considered armed and dangerous.
  • Semi driver could face charges in fiery, fatal Manatee crash

    Semi driver could face charges in fiery, fatal Manatee crash

    Saturday, August 23 2014 11:09 AM EDT2014-08-23 15:09:58 GMT
    One of the vehicles caught fire shortly after the 4 pm crash on Interstate 75 in Ellenton. One of the vehicles caught fire shortly after the 4 pm crash on Interstate 75 in Ellenton.
    One person was killed and two others seriously injured Friday afternoon in a multi-vehicle crash that snarled traffic on Interstate 75 in Manatee and Sarasota counties.The incident occurred just after 4 pm in the northbound lanes just south of the Ellenton exit.
    One person was killed and two others seriously injured Friday afternoon in a multi-vehicle crash that snarled traffic on Interstate 75 in Manatee and Sarasota counties.The incident occurred just after 4 pm in the northbound lanes just south of the Ellenton exit.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Cast iron cookware questions and answers

    Cast iron cookware questions and answers

    Sunday, July 20 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-07-20 19:00:17 GMT
    Cast iron cookware has long been appreciated by professional chefs and home cooks alike for its excellent heat retention properties. It's also hard wearing and long lasting, with no fiddly bits to break or get lost...
    Cast iron cookware has long been appreciated by professional chefs and home cooks alike for its excellent heat retention properties. It's also hard wearing and long lasting, with no fiddly bits to break or get lost...
  • Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 11 - 16

    Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 11 - 16

    Friday, August 22 2014 12:57 PM EDT2014-08-22 16:57:41 GMT
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants? We've gathered details about the Tampa Bay restaurants that received the most violations during inspections conducted from August 11 to 16, 2014.
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants? We've gathered details about the Tampa Bay restaurants that received the most violations during inspections conducted from August 11 to 16, 2014.
  • FWC: Lionfish need to be removed from Florida waters

    FWC: Lionfish need to be removed from Florida waters

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:48 AM EDT2014-07-29 14:48:07 GMT
    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is changing management rules of invasive lionfish to remove them from state waters. Lionfish was introduced to state waters in the 1980s, and since then, populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat, the FWC says.
    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is changing management rules of invasive lionfish to remove them from state waters. Lionfish was introduced to state waters in the 1980s, and since then, populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat, the FWC says.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.