Woman accused of embezzling nearly $1 million from doctor’s office
SEBRING An office manager at a medical practice is accused of stealing nearly $1 million during a four-year period and using some of the money to buy a house and help her son, daughter-in-law and husband, according to an arrest affidavit. Marlie Joann Westervelt, 56, 1501 Divot Court, Sebring, was arrested April 30 and charged with scheme to defraud, three counts of grand theft involving more than $100,000, forgery, uttering forged instruments, fraudulent use of a credit card, making false entries in books and two counts of money laundering. The affidavit alleges that Westervelt stole $936,121.61 through various means, including $196,010.98 in unauthorized personal checks, $36,499.71 in checks involving her son, $12,277.04 in checks and credit cards involving her daughter-in-law, $3,428.38 in checks involving her husband, $25,000 in unauthorized transfers of money, $498,532 in unauthorized credit card purchases, $82,290.84 in unauthorized payroll benefits for herself and $82,082.66 in unauthorized payroll benefits for her husband. The affidavit said that “between January 2008 and August 2012, Marlie Westervelt did engage in an ongoing systematic course of conduct with intent to unlawfully deprive Sebring Heart Center of money valued in excess of $100,000.”During that time, the affidavit said, Westervelt was office manager at Sebring Heart Center and had “access to the Heart Center’s operating account, associated credit lines and payroll.” The investigation began after the owners of Sebring Heart Center discovered financial discrepancies that checks were forged, credit cards were issued in the name of Westervelt, checks were issued to people and businesses that weren’t creditors of Sebring Heart Center and that checks were issued to Westervelt and her family, the affidavit said. None of her family members have been charged with a crime. One check for $110,000, that was signed by Dr. Jennifer Bennett, was used toward buying a house for Westervelt’s son and daughter-in-law, the affidavit said. “Bennett stated she has never signed a $110,000 check in her life,” the affidavit said. Another employee told authorities she routinely saw Westervelt sign signatures of two doctors to checks, but that Westervelt said she had authorization. Several other checks from Sebring Heart Center were used to pay off Westervelt’s son’s student loans, the affidavit said, adding that the son worked at Sebring Heart Center. Another issue involved a supposed $25,000 loan that Westervelt gave to a physician, who told authorities that she believed that Westervelt used personal funds for the loan, the affidavit said. But later investigation showed that she loaned money belonging to Sebring Heart Center, the affidavit said. The owners of Sebring Heart Center also alleged that Westervelt made nearly $500,000 in unauthorized purchases using American Express and Bank of America credit cards. They told authorities Westervelt should have only had one credit card for business expenses and that the charges on those credit cards were fraudulent and unauthorized. The affidavit also alleged that Westervelt received unauthorized bonuses, excessive paid time off, double pay and overtime, although she was salaried, the report said.