A bookkeeper hired to help an Oakdale business clean up its accounts after it was allegedly bilked by a former employee now faces charges herself of swiping more than $53,000 from the company by depositing its funds into her personal bank account.
Kathy Lynn Heller, 50, of Woodbury, allegedly confessed to taking the money, according to court documents, and told CEO Rob Olson of Quantum Merchant Services that she felt sick about what she had done.
Heller faces two felony counts of theft, according to charges filed Tuesday.
For Olson, the revelation that his bookkeeper was taking money was familiar, if shocking — he’s still awaiting the trial of Sara Jean Rose, a bookkeeper who was fired in 2019 for allegedly inflating her own paycheck for five years by more than $185,000.
Rose, of Arden Hills, faces three felony counts of theft.
“Totally betrayed,” Olson said, when asked how he felt after discovering a second case of fraud. The company processes credit card transactions for small businesses.
Olson said he met Rose, 55, through social connections. She initially did good work, he said, before she was terminated for subpar performance in April 2019. “She made all kinds of mistakes and we just decided to replace her,” he said.
Rose refused to return her company computer for four or five days, he said. When she did bring it back, an audit revealed that an accounting program, receipts and invoices had been deleted.
A closer look revealed that Rose had been paying herself $300 extra on top of her weekly $1,000 salary, according to the criminal complaint. The overpayments continued until 2017.
Rose also allegedly made unauthorized transfers of company funds into her own bank accounts and reported them as payments made to vendors.
As the investigation against Rose got underway, Olson posted ads looking for a replacement bookkeeper and eventually hired Heller. He told her about the fraud case against Rose and explained how the thefts took place.
Olson said he remembers telling Heller that if Rose had done things a bit differently, it would have been harder to find the fraud. He now thinks Heller tried to use that information to take company funds.
“She was helping with the investigation with Sara, quite a bit, and then we noticed that her performance was going south,” said Olson.
Heller was fired after she was caught looking through another person’s e-mails on the company server, to which she had access, Olson said. He thinks she was checking to see if anyone was discussing her work performance.
Heller was fired for insubordination in early May. Olson said he learned a short time later that she had made 53 deposits of company funds into her bank account from about Aug. 6, 2019, to May 8.
Olson said that when he confronted Heller about it in an e-mail, she said she wanted to pay the money back.
“I really didn’t mean to hurt you,” Heller wrote in one e-mail, according to court records. “My plan was to start paying it back with my paycheck before you even knew about it, but then everything changed.”