The Price of Appreciation

There is little doubt that attorneys frequently under appreciate those who work with and for them. Witness, for example, posts here such as Paralegal Unhappy. There are good ways to handle the feeling of not being appreciated, which for paralegals often hinges. Some of those ways are discussed on other posts here and in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. There are also many bad ways of handling it. Here’s a story from WHTM in Pennsylvania regarding one of the worst. It involves legal secretaries rather than paralegals:

Two legal secretaries in Cumberland County have been charged with ripping off their boss.

Tina Garlinger of Enola and Bethany Noss of Honey Grove, Juniata County, were arraigned Tuesday on theft, conspiracy and forgery charges. Police allege the woman stole $94,000 from Camp Hill attorney Patrick Lauer over the last two years by racking up false overtime and cashing forged checks from his office account. Lauer employed the pair as legal secretaries.

“They were just stealing checks, writing them to cash, forging my name, writing them to my own name and cashing them,” said Lauer. ABC 27 Talkback:
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Lauer said he caught on to the scheme in April when one of the women mailed a personal bill using a metered stamp from his office.

… Lauer said he was told by police they did it because they felt unappreciated.

There does seem to be something to the thought that it is OK to steal from unappreciative employers. See for example this from John Dierckx who, according to his website, assists employers in reducing the risk of employee theft:

While opportunity is most important, there may be other relevant factors. Low morale can lead employees not only to steal, but can also lower productivity. Feelings of being wronged or mistreated may ust offer that rationalization when the opportunity presents itself. The same applies to feelings of under-appreciation.
Lack of punitive measures in place or there is a lack of preventative and detection measures including but not limited to appropriate policies and procedures and control measures are similarly factors that could lead to an increased risk of employee theft and fraud.

However, one commentator who collects stories of employee theft mocks the idea and notes:

Hourly, salary, blue collar, white collar, rookie, or professional are all represented in the stories above. One individual was even a weekend pastor at a small church. At what point do people decide that taking things that do not belong to them is acceptable? Many will attempt in vain to justify inapt conduct with a Robin Hood justification thought process of taking from the “haves” by the “have nots” as being the way life is. Spend a little too much time surfing the net during work? Cheat on your taxes? Keep excess change that is not yours? Steal an identity? How would you answer the question “Are you honest”?

That question is, of course, important for everyone, but especially for professional paralegals. After all, professionalism is all about standards.

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  • Anonymous says:

    This story is NOT true. Not only did these women not admit to this, and are going to trial, but the amount of money is increasing every day. One paper says $45,000. The next says $94,000. The next says $100,000. I’d like to know how much money this man actually makes. What a typical lawyer, lieing again. Anyone who knows Pat Lauer knows that this man is pure evil. Not only is he constantly only trying to get ahead, stepping on anyone he can, now he is trying to drag his son into this. Well, I would like everyone to know that these women took care of his son more than he ever did.

    I’d just like to say for once look into a story before publishing it and ruining lives. These women have not been convicted of this. Anyone can call the news and make up a story. I’d like to see a news company who actually does some research. I’m appalled.

  • Sure they stole and they have confessed, and all you have to do is ask the arresting officer from Camp Hill.

    If you really want to see it than show up when they do their guilty pleas, and from what I’ve heard the one was a nanny.

    I heard Noss was fired from a Burger King for stealing and obviously she must not have been charged.

    Sure the papers don’t always get everything right, but the cops usually do. Why haven’t we heard Garlinger or Noss deny what they have done to the papers. In the article from the Sentinel it was reported Garlinger hung up on the reporter when she had a chance to respond.

    It will be an interesting thing to see how much jail time they get because from what i HEARD THEY ARE LOOKING AT STATE TIME.

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    I’ve included this comment despite some reservations. Clearly statements like “I heard Noss was fired from a Burger King for stealing…” is not only hearsay, but gossip and would not be admited into evidence in any court for purposes of proving the facts asserted.

    While I’m all for reporting the allegations on which charges are made, we must keep in mind that they are not guilty until proven guilty. Confessions are not necessarily the answer (and I have no information other than this comment indication there are confessions). See, e.g., this story from the New York Times which states, “But more than 40 others have given confessions since 1976 that DNA evidence later showed were false, according to records compiled by Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.” Finally, while the cops may “usually” get things right, the very phrase implies that they also get things wrong. When they plead or are proven guilty, I’ll accept them as guilty. In the meantime, this is just a story in the newspaper used for purposes of illustration accompanied by two comment, which disagree.

  • JNC33 says:

    It sounds fishy to me that Lauer said the very first thing that brought his attention to the missing $94,000 was one of them using a 44-cent stamp machine to mail a bill. How can one get all paranoid over 44 cents and NOT already be paying attention to his books? And if this was going on for about two years, how is it that he and his accountant didn’t catch it during tax time?

    Most employers would not even CARE about employees using stamps for the occasional letter or bill. Lauer’s reaction to the stamp usage is overreaction; you can bet that today thousands of employees will use 44-cent stamps to mail their own items, and these employees are just as unlikely to be stealing thousands of dollars as these two individuals here have been accused of. If each of these thousands of employees that use company stamps today were caught doing so, there may be some reprimand, but I daresay that most of the employers would say, “Don’t do that again,” and be done with it.

    I speculate that Mr. Lauer’s overreaction is a chess move he’s making for being caught at doing something he should not have been doing. It does not follow reasoning that an employer overly obsessed with 44-cents should not also be overly-obsessed with following his books closely. The investigation should take care to ensure that these two employees were not directed to write checks to “cash” at the direction of their intimidating employer so he could hide money or create artificial tax breaks. This may explain why the employees admitted to doing these things.

    The employees may have very well taken the money and run. However, the stamp association Lauer made with a higher crime is a bit too convenient for my judgement. I have a gut feeling that there’s more to this story that the employer has not and will not disclose. He just seems very suspicious to me with the way he brought this all up. I hope the employees have a good attorney on their side, because I have a feeling that Lauer is hanging them out to dry to save his own skin.

    I have one more comment. I noticed that one of the people that responded to this article named himself “Patrick Lauer” which is the name of the attorney mentioned in the article itself. You’re not the REAL “Patrick Lauer” mentioned in the article, are you? If you are, then you are clearly an idiot for responding to this thread and for mentioning the Burger King hearsay.

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