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Police: Office manager, considered 'family,' stole $188,000 from boss

July 29, 2014

By Michael Denison, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

July 29--A Jupiter woman has been charged with fraud after stealing almost $200,000 from her Palm Beach employer, according to Palm Beach Police.

Lesley Ann Simmonds, 57, was also charged with grand theft from a person over 65 and fraudulent use of ID. She was arrested Friday afternoon, posted $35,000 bond and released Saturday night.

An investigator at Bank of America's Fraud and Claim Department found that Simmonds used the corporate account to pay legal fees related to her son's arrest, as well as a down payment on a 2014 Infiniti QX60. Other cards were linked to numerous purchases at grocery stores, a hair salon and a variety of retailers.

Simmonds used to be office manager at a Palm Beach psychiatrist's office, according to the affidavit. The psychiatrist told police that Simmonds worked there as his sole employee for 21 years. He considered her "family" and would often give her extra paychecks and other gifts in times of financial trouble, according to the affidavit.

He trusted her enough that he often wrote multiple blank checks, allowing her to fill in the payee and amount of each check. However, the psychiatrist was the only authorized signer on the business checking account, according to the affidavit.

In February, the psychiatrist requested a financial audit from the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm. The audit showed that many online payments from his account were not associated with himself or his practice, according to the affidavit. It showed that the fraudulent activity started before 2010 and had likely cost him $15,000 each month.

After the audit, the psychiatrist told Simmonds that her services were no longer needed, according to the affidavit. She apologized at length in two emails, saying, "There is no excuse for what I have done especially to the one person I most respect and admire."

She also said she did not interfere with any deposits to the account, and she didn't know how to explain her actions. The psychiatrist told police Simmonds admitted to applying for and getting multiple credit cards in her name through the corporate account, according to the affidavit.

Police confirmed the fraudulent purchases allegedly made by Simmonds amounted to $187,764.83. Twelve credit cards and banking accounts were linked to the psychiatrist's account, according to the affidavit.


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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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