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Is the Law Firm Office Manager Stealing?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 02, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

At what point do you call out your office manager for taking money from the law firm?

When she takes $25,000 for bail on a case? When she pays off the lease on her Mercedes Benz? How about when you realize there's $2.1 million missing from the firm account?

Apparently, that's what it took for attorney Bernard Charbonnet, Jr. to do something about it. Unfortunately, his office manager was gone before he realized the money was gone.

Take-Charge Employee

Latanya Arnold, 48, had worked for "Bunny" Charbonnet for over nine years. She had always been a take-charge employee, but Charbonnet just didn't know how much she took over.

According to police records, Arnold took the lawyer's money to pay for personal expenses and to operate two companies she ran out of her home. She and her husband , Raymond Arnold, sold vaping products and operated a trucking business.

Charbonnet realized he had a problem four days after Arnold left, when he found an unauthorized withdrawal of $25,000. He confronted her about it, and she said she had to post bond for her son in a drug case.

Arnold promised to pay Charbonnet back, and he thought that would be the end of it. Sadly, it was only the beginning of his worst nightmare.

Beginning of the End

Arnold paid him back alright -- with a check she forged in his name. She withdrew the money from one of his accounts and deposited it into another.

Charbonnet, 65, was "alarmed over the incident," police said. He then ordered an audit, which uncovered the nine-year embezzlement.

The American Bar Association says law firms should regularly audit accounts, conduct background checks, and implement policies to prevent employee theft. Attorney Lee Rosen, who claims ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, says he found law firm employees who embezzled more than $1 million on Google "in like 10 seconds."

Unfortunately, it took Charbonnet a lot longer. The Arnolds posted bail -- apparently with their own money.

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