A Van Buren County woman was arrested Tuesday morning after being accused of stealing client payments from the Jiles Firm.
Mary Lorraine Wilkinson, 36, of Bee Branch was an assistant in the Jiles Firm’s Conway office. Court documents show the Van Buren County woman worked at the law firm’s Conway office since January 2016.
While consolidating from two offices – located in Searcy and Conway – to a single Conway location, the firm discovered there were several discrepancies in deposits that Wilkinson had logged, according to the felony probable cause affidavit filed against the 36-year-old woman.
Wilkinson is accused of endorsing payment checks to herself eight times for a total of $2,047 and also pocketing $3,707 in cash payments.
The president of the firm filed a theft complaint against Wilkinson on May 8.
Prior to consolidating the two offices, Gary D. Jiles, the president of Jiles Firm, said the Searcy office was used as the business office. If a payment was made at the Conway office, Wilkinson would copy the checks, fill out a deposit slip and alert the office manager in Searcy so that she could credit the client’s account.
The law firm switched to having only one office (in Conway) in January. The next month, court documents state the firm “began using a cloud based program for their books and Wilkinson was responsible for making deposits for incoming client payments with access to both the manual spreadsheet and the software.”
As staff began “looking over the books” as the firm worked to close the Searcy office, the found “at least” three discrepancies for 2019.
“Basically, Wilkinson had noted them as deposited but [the payments] were unaccounted for in bank statements for the firm,” Conway Police Department Detective Joshua Fulbright wrote in his report. “They then contacted the clients whose payments would have been in those deposits to see if their checks had cleared. They found out the checks had never cleared.”
During the firm’s investigation, it found out that Wilkinson often would alter the payee portion of client checks to route to her personal account by writing “pay to the order of” and including her personal account number on the checks.
Six clients who showed to have an unpaid balance were able to provide the firm copies of the checks they previously gave Wilkinson. The unaccounted for payments for these clients totaled $1,622.
“The clients advised when they made their payment, they were instructed by Wilkinson to leave the payee line blank and she would stamp it with the firm’s stamp however, the firm never had a stamp according to Jiles,” the affidavit reads in part. “The firm has also been given receipts from some clients who paid in cash. These totaled $3,355.00 and each receipt was signed by Ms. Wilkinson from when she had taken the cash payment and issued a receipt.”
According to the affidavit, authorities suspect the Bee Branch woman would throw away check payments if they were accompanied with an additional cash payment.
Attorneys at the firm told Wilkinson not to come into the office on April 28 and 29 as they began their investigation. During their investigation, the reportedly found 18 instances “where the bank statements didn’t match what Wilkinson had entered into the computer. In other words, the invoice was marked as paid, but there was no corresponding deposit in the firm’s accounts.”
Wilkinson was confronted about the payment and deposit discrepancies on April 30, according to the affidavit. While she did not immediately respond to the allegations, she later sent the firm an email saying she would pay back the missing money.
“In this email, she simply states she isn’t admitting to anything but was willing to set up a re-payment process to pay back the missing money,” Fulbright wrote in his report.
The Van Buren County woman was formally charged on May 20 with one count of theft of property and eight counts of forgery.
Online records show that Wilkinson was booked into the Faulkner County Detention Center at 6:16 a.m. Tuesday morning and that she posted bond at 3:34 p.m.
The firm confirmed on Tuesday that Wilkinson is no longer a Jiles Firm employee but declined to comment further regarding the case against the 36-year-old woman.