April 3, 2023 – BARRE, VT – Police say a Northfield woman stole thousands of dollars from a dental business using fraudulent returns.
Danielle S. Farnum, 21, plead not guilty in Washington County criminal court to a felony count of embezzlement.
If convicted, Farnum faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. She was released on her own recognizance.
Detective Cpl. Daniel Withrow, of the Berlin police, said in his affidavit in January police received a report stating embezzlement had taken place at a dental business in Berlin.
Withrow said he spoke with the office manager on Feb. 1 who reported the business received a fraud alert after multiple transactions were sent to a single account at Northfield Savings Bank.
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He said he was told the same debit card was used for all 11 transactions, which all took place in January. The investigator said the manager reported these apparently fraudulent return payments were sent to the bank account from the office’s point-of-sale machine, or cash register.
He said the manager reported the business was working with its payment service provider to reverse the transactions.
He said eight of the transactions totaled $4,743. He said those funds were sent to the bank account. Withrow said three more transactions totaling $4,607 were denied by the company’s payment service provider.
He said the manager later reported a dentist had come forward to report his employee, Farnum, had approached him wondering why the business had removed funds from her checking account.
Withrow said he was provided with photos of Farnum’s cellphone showing the money coming out of her account. The investigator said the dollar amounts matched the amounts taken from the business. He said taking the funds back caused Farnum’s account to have a negative balance of nearly $4,000.
Withrow said he then spoke with the dentist who reported this incident wasn’t a payroll issue, as the payroll company had already reported there was no error on its end.
The investigator said he then spoke with Farnum. He said she denied issuing any refunds to her bank account. Farnum reported no one else had access to her debit card unless they went into her bag, according to court records.
Withrow said Farnum reported she was not struggling for money and did not know why the money was sent to her account, though she admitted the situation looked suspicious.
Withrow said Farnum reported she didn’t think she’d ever done a refund at work, and again denied refunding the money into her personal account.
He said Farnum reported the deposits from the business never showed up in her account, or she didn’t notice the funds when they were deposited. He said she later reported she had gone to her bank and requested records which showed the deposits had been made to her account.
Withrow said a subpoena was then served on the bank, which provided records from Farnum’s account. He said the records showed funds from the dental business going into Farnum’s account with the same amounts reported as fraudulent returns.
Withrow said records showed about $6,830 also had been transferred from Farnum’s checking account to her savings account while she was receiving the fraudulent returns. He said bank records showed Farnum also had made multiple large purchases in the month of January, including $339.78 spent at Victoria’s Secret in South Burlington, $252.94 spent at L.L. Bean in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, $240.27 spent at Koto Japanese Steakhouse also in West Lebanon, $191.54 spent at Bath & Body Works, $149.89 spent at Joann Fabric in South Burlington, $132.20 spent at Trombly’s Flower Shop in Northfield, $121.50 spent at Lenny’s Shoe and Apparel and $119 spent at Mureta’s Meat Processing in Northfield.
Withrow said he spoke with Farnum again on Feb. 14. He said he explained to her, based on how much money she was making at $19 an hour at her job and that she only had about $500 in her account to start the month of January, she was spending well beyond her means that month.
He said she agreed that the math didn’t add up, but she again denied stealing the funds.