Celebrities and media moguls attract much attention from American society; often that attention is unwanted. Fraudsters and con artists know there is a great deal of money in the media world and that makes celebrities and Hollywood production companies big targets for fraud. Matthew Rudolf, a former accountant for the NBC TV series “30 Rock” has joined the list of those accused of trying to steal from the entertainment industry.
According to a criminal complaint filed in New York City’s Queens County Criminal Court, Rudolf attempted to alter receipts and falsify expense documents, all so he could pocket the money. Prosecutors say he also misused an NBC credit card for his personal expenses.
As part of his duties, Rudolf was given a charge card to use for production related expenses. According to prosecutors, employees are supposed to provide receipts and get purchases approved by the production manager and NBC’s controller in Los Angeles. Rudolf thought he found away around the system. (Remember all criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Rudolf says the expenses were approved. Is a Sony PlayStation a legitimate expense? We may have to wait for an answer.
As far as frauds go, Rudolf is about as unsophisticated as they come. Cops say he used White Out to alter some receipts. Rudolf was terminated from his position and faces 7 years in prison if convicted.
With so many theft never being prosecuted, we wonder why the Queens County District Attorney’s Office charged Rudolf. The alleged take was just $13,600.
According to media sources, he charged with a whopping 22 counts of theft, forgery and falsifying business records. Queens DA Richard Brown said, “His alleged conduct represents a betrayal of the confidence that his employer had in him.”
Rudolf’s lawyer says the allegations are “cuckoo.”
Thefts by accountants are thankfully rare. Because many accountants also operate as bookkeepers or chief financial officers, any breach of trust should be prosecuted, even if the money taken is relatively small.
In addition to any criminal sanctions Rudolf faces if convicted, he could also lose his accountant’s license and be liable to NBC for any losses they incurred.
Theft by an accountant technically isn’t malpractice meaning most accounting malpractice insurance policies don’t cover such losses. Insurance is generally reserved for claims regarding bad tax advice, missed deadlines or accounting mistakes. Either way, if you lost money because of a bad accountant, we can probably help.
Other Celebrity Thefts
In August of last year, the owner of a Beverly Hills beauty salon was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from celebrity clients. Her scam? Simply stealing the credit card data from her clients and later racking up phony charges.The salon owner, Maria Perez, faces 25 years in prison.Her victims include Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway and Liv Tyler.
By all accounts, Perez should have been happy – and wealthy – from her work as a hair stylist and salon owner to the rich and famous. Cops say, however, that she is nothing more than a common thief with a long history of stealing. Police say she has a history of bad checks and shoplifting. Documents filed in connection with her arrest show 20 different aliases as well.
Not all celebrity scams are so crude. Last year I reported my brush with celebrity accountant Ken Starr in January of 2008, two years before his arrest. Starr counted as his clients such celebrities as Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone. Starr pled guilty last year to masterminding a $60 million Ponzi scheme.
The arrest and prosecution of those that steal from celebrities and entertainment giants always finds its way to the headlines. Most frauds are never prosecuted, however, and often involve agents who bilk their celebrity or sports star employers of their hard-earned money. High profile celebrities hire agents to take care of their finances, unfortunately not all agents are honest.
The reason celebrity thefts are so common is that most celebrities are simply too busy to manage their finances. Ask the average Joe on the street how much money is in his or her bank account and they probably have a good idea. The average American lives paycheck to paycheck. Financial theft is usually detected immediately. Celebrities have more money and are less likely to miss a couple thousand dollars pilfered from their account.
Ditto with many businesses and assuming the allegations are true, that is how Matthew Rudolf was able to steal. In 2010, NBC had annual revenues over $20 billion. For a thief, thinking that they can hide a $13,000 theft is quite tempting.
Unfortunately, as long as there are people with money there will be others trying to steal it.
How do you stop these thefts? The best defense against theft is to pay attention to your money. Look at bank statements. Question unusual withdrawals or expenses. Cases against accountants are a bit more difficult because these are frequently the very people we hire to watch over our financial affairs. If your accountant has access to your funds, make sure they are bonded. Accounting malpractice insurance probably doesn’t protect you if the account steals or engages in criminal behavior.
MahanyLaw is a boutique law firm that helps victims of fraud recover their hard-earned money. Whether or not you are a celebrity, we can help you get back your money. Ponzi schemes, accounting malpractice, embezzlement, elder fraud, stock broker fraud… we can help. Our Wisconsin based asset recovery lawyers have helped people from Maine to Hawaii. If you or someone you know is a victim, call us. We promise a no obligation, no fee, no nonsense evaluation of your case.
Looking for more information about celebrity fraud cases? We have plenty.
*We typically limit our practice to cases with a loss of $1 million or more. Often we can help you find someone qualified if the loss is smaller.