Former Costco Employee Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling Nearly $290,000 by Making False Entries in Customer Accounts
Accounts Receivables Clerk Entered Phony Purchases and Returns and Funneled the Cash into her Bank Accounts
A 20-year Costco employee was sentenced December 17, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to one year in prison for wire fraud in connection with her five-year scheme to steal nearly $290,000 from her employer, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. ROBIN G. CLINE, 54, of Puyallup, Washington, was employed as an Accounts Receivable Clerk at Costco’s Fife, Washington facility from 1996 until she resigned in 2016. CLINE pleaded guilty in June 2018, admitting that between 2011 and 2016, she had manipulated entries in business customer accounts to steal from both Costco and its customers. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said the conduct was “outrageous,” and deserving of a significant sanction.
According to records filed in the case, as a Clerk in Accounts Receivables CLINE had authority to process payments, refunds and other credits for Costco business customers. Beginning in 2011, the investigation revealed that CLINE made false entries into customer accounts such as credits, refunds or charges. CLINE then used these false entries to funnel money from Costco and Costco business customers into her bank accounts and a bank account associated with her son. CLINE used false entries to steal money in multiple ways. She made false entries indicating a customer had returned an item or disputed a purchase resulting in a credit balance on the customer account. CLINE then funneled the credit balance to her bank account, not back to the business customer. Another way CLINE embezzled was to double bill customers for merchandise, and then ‘correct’ the double billing by refunding money to the customer – however, CLINE arranged for the refund to be funneled into her bank accounts or her son’s bank account.
The forensic examination revealed CLINE used the funds to buy a luxury car, and pay for personal expenses.
In all, CLINE posted more than 290 false entries involving more than 100 customer accounts. Costco refunded money to each customer who suffered a loss, and paid an extra 10 percent premium to each one. Writing to the court Costco executives noted that CLINE had betrayed the trust the company placed in her and damaged its reputation with the customers. Another executive noted that in order to hide her scheme CLINE made derogatory evaluations of co-workers indicating they could not learn the accounting systems – in that way she protected her theft by keeping their eyes off the books. It was not until CLINE was on an extended leave that the fraud was uncovered.
CLINE has agreed to pay restitution of $289,975.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen P. Hobbs.