For Immediate Release - February 18, 2011

Former Hospital Employee Sentenced to Jail Time for Stealing Over $230,000 in Check-Lapping Scheme

SALEM - A former administrative assistant at Beverly Hospital has been sentenced in connection with stealing over $230,000 from Sodexo, Inc., a hospital vendor, in a scheme where she took cash from the hospital's cafeteria and other sources and fraudulently changed accounting system entries to cover her theft, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office announced today.

On January 28, 2011, Diane Thistle, age 63, of Beverly, pled guilty to charges of Larceny over $250 and Making False Entries in Corporate Books. Today, Essex Superior Court Judge John Lu sentenced Thistle to two years in the House of Correction, seven months to serve, with the balance suspended for a probationary period of 10 years. Judge Lu also ordered that Thistle pay full restitution in the amount of $232,262 and that she undergo an evaluation for gambling addiction and receive counseling if necessary. Thistle must also disclose her conviction to any future employer.

"At a time when many institutions are struggling to control their bottom line, it is unacceptable that an employee in a position of trust would take advantage of their authority to steal from their employer," AG Coakley said.

In April 2010, the Attorney General's Office began an investigation into Thistle's activities after the matter had been referred by Beverly Hospital and one of the hospital's vendors, Sodexo, Inc. Thistle was an administrative assistant at Beverly Hospital for over 14 years, and one of her duties was to oversee the processing of checks and cash generated by the food services division. In the spring of 2009, the hospital decided to stop using Sodexo to manage its food services and the two parties began the process of settling their account. Sodexo's records showed that invoices to the hospital totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars remained open. The hospital's records, however, showed that those invoices had been paid in full. After this discovery, Sodexo immediately initiated an audit of the account.

Thistle stole money from the account using a "check-lapping" scheme. Investigators discovered that Thistle stole cash that came to her from the cafeteria revenue and then replaced the stolen cash with older checks that the hospital intended as payment for catering. When the amounts did not perfectly match, Thistle would insert her own personal checks into the deposit to balance the amounts. When the hospital paid Sodexo, Thistle received the check and arranged for its deposit into the vendor's food services bank account. Thistle would then access Sodexo's cafeteria records and fraudulently change the entry for that day's cash intake. She entered a new amount that equaled the catering invoice. Thistle would then pocket some or all of the cafeteria cash, but deposit the hospital's catering check as if it were the cafeteria cash. As a result, Beverly Hospital's records would show it had paid its catering bill, while Sodexo's records would falsely show that the deposit was for cafeteria revenue. At a later point, Thistle would pay the open catering invoice with an older catering check from the hospital, and use her own personal checks to balance the amounts if necessary. Authorities allege that between 2005 and 2009, Thistle stole over $230,000 from Sodexo and used those funds for her own personal use.

An Essex County Grand Jury returned indictments against Thistle on June 30, 2010. Thistle was arraigned on July 22, 2010, in Essex Superior Court at which time she entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. On January 28, 2011, Thistle pled guilty to all charges. Today, she was sentenced to serve time in jail.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Lee Hettinger of AG Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division with assistance from financial investigator Jessie Dean and members of the Massachusetts State Police. Beverly Hospital and Sodexo, Inc. cooperated fully with the Attorney General's investigation.