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My Boss appears to be being scammed - can I be implicated?

(42 Posts)
NotSayingWhatMyNameIs Fri 29-Jan-16 14:24:30

Bit of an odd one and I have changed username for this.

It's along story but I will try and summarise without drip feeding.

Essentially my boss is a lonely older chap who has been dabbling with online dating. He appears to have become involved with a lady who is very much younger than him and, based on the photos, very attractive.

Their relationship quickly moved on to whatsapp and private emails outside of the dating website and around October time he started asking me to transfer small amounts of money to her from the business account. He does not have online banking access as he is a total technophobe and doesn't understand how it all works so myself and one other colleague have access and make payments on his instructions.

The payments started off as small amounts but have gradually increased in size and frequency. Since October the total payments we have been asked to make to this woman are just over £40K.

It's not my business, it is not my problem, he is the sole director and it is down to him. My problem is that on several occasions we have not had enough money in the current account to make these payments so he has told me to make the payments from client account. The money in client account is not our money, it is client money which is held for various reasons. Essentially this is theft.

I am convinced he is caught up in a scam, I have tried to talk to him to make him realise he is being taken for a mug but he gets defensive and tells me to mind my own business - fair enough, it isn't my business but he seems to have become so embroiled by her web of deceit that he keeps digging a deeper and deeper hole.

He has been promised by this woman that she is going to repay him. I am not entirely sure what reasons she has given for needing this money or how she intends to repay it but every time she gives a date by which she will repay him, a further excuse is given and he just has to make another payment to her so she can sort it out.

To everyone else it would be obvious - he is being made a fool of. It is quite obviously a scam.

This is having a major impact on the business as aside from client money he has been using money set aside to pay salaries at month end. We very nearly were unable to pay the staff this month we just about did it.

I am beyond frustrated and part of me wants to intervene and get the police involved in what is so obviously a dating website scam.

My issue is my colleague and I are the ones that have physically made the bank transfers. I am not so concerned about the transfers from the business account - it is the client money that concerns me. We were acting on his instructions and we both told him we thought what he was doing was wrong but at the end of the day, he is the boss and we were following orders. I am seriously worried that we will be in trouble for making the payments. Every payment made was on an emailed instruction from him.

Aside from the client money - any suggestions on how I put an end to this. He will not listen and I can't see it stopping

thanks for reading

cdtaylornats Fri 29-Jan-16 14:35:06

Does he have a friend in the same profession who could have a word?

Is he liable to be audited?

EskSmith Fri 29-Jan-16 14:36:36

Firstly I have no special knowledge these are only my thoughts.

He is putting you in a horrible situation.
Have you told him this?

Does your business have a professional body that you could approach for anonymous advice?

Do you have a paper trail of your challenges to him on the use of these accounts?

Could you and your colleague band together and make a pact to refuse to make any more? If he is unable to make the payments without you could then he would be really stuck then - also I understand that you would fear for your job but
1. this would be unfair dismissal if you did. Would he want a court to see all this info?
2. He seems incapable of running the business without you.

It would need a strong pact though to bear his unhappiness.

Personally if you don't have it already I would get some challenges to him documented and seek advice, either from a professional body or union if possible - otherwise CAB perhaps?

I don't know your boss so I can't predict what might happen but if I fully trusted the colleague I'd be tempted to refuse to make any further payment, in writing as it is unlawful.

sootica Fri 29-Jan-16 14:37:36

What's your role in the business, Do you have your own professional obligations regarding the money? What sort of business is it?
I'm a solicitor and if a partner asked me to transfer some client money that I knew shouldn't be transferred even if I was not a partner and that person was my boss I would have to refuse due to my own professional obligations
It might come down to whether you personally have responsibilities to protect client money

Ginmakesitallok Fri 29-Jan-16 14:38:20

I would refuse to move any more money out of the client accounts and make sure you keep copies of all the requesting emails.

QuiteLikely5 Fri 29-Jan-16 14:41:01

I think you need to get a friend to call 101 for advice, when the police show tell your boss it was your friend who reported you.

QuiteLikely5 Fri 29-Jan-16 14:41:29

Do it today before the fool loses his business!

LonerDave Fri 29-Jan-16 14:41:44

Yes. You would be in serious trouble for this.

However, keep a trail of evidence of when & how much he has asked to transfer.

I know this because this genuinely happened to a friend of mine.

Court case was 3 years long!!!!!

BettyBi0 Fri 29-Jan-16 14:42:55

Have you tried calling a meeting with your colleague and boss to formally talk about it? Like a proper sit down around a table?

Is the woman pverdeas?

Backingvocals Fri 29-Jan-16 15:00:58

Yes I'd be very worried if I were you.

If you hold client money are you regulated in some way? FCA? SRA? Most regulators will have whistleblowing procedures for this sort of thing. But blowing the whistle will also affect you hugely - although you ought to be protected by law the truth is it also sounds like the business itself is in danger anyway meaning your job is already at risk.

I think you have to do something I'm afraid. Keep very detailed records. Can you print out email instructions and keep them personally?

NotSayingWhatMyNameIs Fri 29-Jan-16 15:14:30

Thank you for all your replies.

To answer some questions, we are not regulated and neither do we have any professional obligations. My role is office manager my colleague who also has access to the bank is the finance manager - he is a qualified accountant so he may obligations he needs to consider.

I have challenged my boss on several occasions all via email. My colleague has done the same today.

I have an email trail of every single transactions, I also have copies of all my responses to him saying it is client money and he shouldn't be using it, reminding him of the legal implications, the fact it is theft etc. I also have his responses which all say something along the lines of 'just make the payment urgently and tell me when it is done'

And yes, this person is apparently overseas however the payments are being made to a UK bank account.

I am going to tell him that I am not prepared to make any more payments and I will do this in writing also. I will also tell him again that I believe he is subject to a con and that if does not report it to the police then I will. It may well cost me my job but there won't be much of a company left at this rate.

I am disgusted he has put us in the position.

Bananalanacake Fri 29-Jan-16 15:28:07

Has he met her in person? I guess not if she's overseas, as if he hasn't met her then it's easier to convince him it's a con but you've probably done this.

GraceKellysLeftArm Fri 29-Jan-16 15:30:01

Presumably your boss does not file his own accounts? Right, call the accountant and tell him - the accountant will be "all over it" because it will sink the business. If you're taking client money then there will be legal implications - again, the accountant will be "all over this shit".

GraceKellysLeftArm Fri 29-Jan-16 15:30:38

Oh ignore that ^ , I've just seen he is an accountant. Oh holy mother-fucking moly. sad

NotSayingWhatMyNameIs Fri 29-Jan-16 15:38:14

He has not met her - this whole thing screams of a con artist at work. My boss is usually pretty savvy but seems to have been sucked in.

Just to clarify, my colleague is an accountant but is not the Company's accountant - he just deals with our bookkeeping. We use an external accountant to do the actual accounts.

The accounts aren't due to be filed for another few months by which time my Boss believes the money will have been repaid but in the real world - that isn't likely!

ILikeUranus Fri 29-Jan-16 15:48:16

I think I'd just be tempted to report it to the police. You're unlikely to get in trouble for the theft if you do that, but if it gets reported by someone else (like the accountant), it doesn't look good on you - after all you admit in your emails that you know it's theft, but you do it anyway.

NotSayingWhatMyNameIs Fri 29-Jan-16 15:52:49

You are right ILikeUranus I need to report him. Trying to reason with him is clearly not getting me anywhere.

I feel sick

starfishmummy Fri 29-Jan-16 16:08:17

Hang on. You have said that he is a total technophobe and doesnt have internet banking. Yet he has used an on line dating site, whats app and email.

So he is being very shrewd and getting you to steal money from the client account which is going to this other account. Perhaps he is being conned, or perhaps he and this woman are in this together to steal the money.

HairySubject Fri 29-Jan-16 16:14:56

I would print all of the emails and keep them at home to cover your back and report what is happening to someone.

tribpot Fri 29-Jan-16 16:19:40

I would go to the police too. I think there is a risk as starfish suggests that he's trying to implicate you in the fraud, although it is much more likely that he is being conned. This is a pretty common type of deception and, whilst more common among women I seem to recall from a very good Woman's Hour article about it, around 45% of the victims are male. I will see if I can find the programme and link to it.

The amounts 'she' requests (I guess they've never spoken on the phone, even?) will only increase, I would suspect the business is about to go under to be honest. It's time to act, for everyone's sake.

ewbank Fri 29-Jan-16 16:31:13

Even if the money does get paid back, what he (and you) is/are doing is illegal.

tribpot Fri 29-Jan-16 16:35:29

Woman's Hour.

tribpot Fri 29-Jan-16 16:38:46

Action Fraud.

Mrsmorton Fri 29-Jan-16 16:39:33

I was just about to mention woman's hour tripbot a very good article I thought. OP, you have to do something for several moral and legal reasons. The police can confiscate all of his money if that's what it takes!

MuttonCadet Fri 29-Jan-16 17:03:17

What YOU are doing is illegal, what the qualified accountant is doing would get them barred from practicing.

The clients account is not the company money, you cannot transfer it legally.

I'm horrified that you have gone along with this, a family member has resigned and reported two different solicitors firms for using client funds to pay salaries and VAT.

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