A great find…and loss

April 12, 2011 | by D. B. "Libby" Libhart

He was a great find. An experienced fast food manager walked in and applied for an open shift manager position. He interviewed well and obviously had a great deal of experience. All of the favorable first impressions were verified with a phone call to a former district manager of the applicant, who gave a raving endorsement of his abilities, aptitudes and experience. “We hate to lose him” was the most memorable comment by the former supervisor.

 The Impressive New Shift Manager

The applicant was hired and soon proved that he was a very capable shift manager with superb skills in running the shift, service to the customers and getting good results. The crew loved working with him. The management team was thrilled to have such an experienced colleague working with them. After a few days, he was issued store keys and the safe combination as he continued to take on and handle more responsibility.

The Big Weekend Test

A big holiday weekend was approaching and it was time to put the manager to the test and let him run the restaurant during the holiday weekend, while the other managers took some much needed time off. The restaurant manager called the new shift manager two times during the long weekend checking on how things were going. “Oh, just fine, no worries,” was the reply. On the Tuesday following the long holiday weekend, the shift manager was scheduled at 11 a.m. He mysteriously failed to show at his assigned time. Thinking that there must be some misunderstanding, the restaurant manager called the phone number furnished by the new manager. The number was to a local cheap motel and the hotel clerk informed the store manager that the shift manager and his girlfriend were gone, leaving behind unpaid charges to the hotel.

The Con

At first, the restaurant manager was confused. It then dawned on him what the possibility could be. His suspicions were realized when a panic phone call to the bank confirmed that all the cash deposits from the three day weekend had not been made. The impressive new shift manager was evidently a con man and vanished with the proceeds from the three day weekend – over $14,000!

The Investigation

An investigation was initiated with the uncovered trail of the new shift manager revealing a string of similar cons and thefts. The same method of operation by the shift manager and his girlfriend was accomplished at least six times previously, totaling more than $80,000 in cash thefts. Each time, if a reference call was made, the glowing reference from the applicant’s former District Manager was from the cell phone of his girlfriend. Since the embezzlement crimes were across several states, the FBI became involved.

The Net

A “be on the lookout for” bulletin was distributed across the country for the shift manager with his distinctive physical description along with the method of the scam. Within two weeks, a tip was received that the shift manager had submitted an application to a fast food restaurant four states away. A trap was set. The shift manager was scheduled for an employment interview. Warrants were obtained and the shift manager and his girlfriend were arrested and charged with federal crimes under racketeering statutes. Disposable deposit bags and tickets relating to their crimes were found in their vehicle and motel room.

The Lessons

No application was ever obtained from the applicant. On each occasion, his resume was the only source of written information. The pre-employment interviews did reveal a much detailed background past his experience and last job. All reference checks for those who actually did them were limited to the one phone call to the girlfriend posing as the applicant’s District Manager and deemed sufficient. The shift manager gaining the confidence of the restaurant manager was given keys to the restaurant, combination to the safe, and responsibility to handle the deposits without any background check. A routine check would have revealed several arrest warrants for the shift manager.

Worst Case

Many business owners claim they do not think to do pre-employment background checks. Others do not think they are necessary, or determine that they are unaffordable. A case like this one may be rare, but what do you really know about those you hire and give access to your cash, merchandise and business records? What would happen to the reputation of your brand if you hired a registered sex offender and he or she molested a minor customer on your premises? Unfortunately, these scenarios are real and negatively affect profitability and brand reputation.

Pre-Employment Background checks

Pre-employment background checks are the start of a comprehensive loss prevention program and screen potential employees on whether they can perform the job required of them and are not likely to show conduct or behavior that could do harm to the company, its employees, or customers. A background screen can also assure the potential employee can do what they claim through education and employment verification.

Pre-Employment Programs

A good pre-employment background program brings great value and return on investment many times over by:

  • Basing hiring decisions on facts – Avoid the “good story teller”
  • Increasing morale – Employees know you care
  • Decreasing turnover – Employees want to work for you
  • Providing a safer work environment – Screen out “trouble”
  • Reducing the risk of legal liabilities – Protect your employees and customers
  • Protecting your brand – No embarrassment (or worse) of criminal activity or criminal pasts becoming public knowledge

For the business owner it also fosters the peace of mind that the right person, with the right attributes was hired into the right company.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Commentary , Hiring and Retention , Human Resources , Loss Prevention , Staffing & Training

D. B. "Libby" Libhart / D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.
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