Wadaga trial: Day 2

L’ANSE – The trial of a Baraga woman accused of embezzling from the auto repair company where she worked for two years continued Tuesday with testimony from former co-workers and the outside accountant who recommended turning the case over to law enforcement.

Wadaga worked at First Choice Auto Body in L’Anse from June 2009 until June 2011, when owner William Ross accused her of having stolen from the business. An estimated $24,000 was taken during that time.

Testifying Tuesday was Andrew Wallner, a certified public accountant Ross brought in to look at the company’s financial reports after he fired Wadaga.

While the bottom line was the same on both the company’s Quickbooks records and the bank deposit slips, they got to the total by different ways. Less cash went to the bank, but the difference was made up by checks not reflected in the Quickbooks account.

He showed examples of accounts where the cash total had been adjusted downward.

“We determined that there was an issue, and Willie’s accusation that there was an issue on his books was justified, and we needed to turn it over to the officers and let them pursue it,” he said.

During cross-examination, he allowed for the possibility that the revisions could have come from changes in estimates for the work, records for which had not been provided to him. Wadaga’s attorney, George Hyde, also questioned Wallner about omissions and inconsistencies with the audit report from First Choice’s software. The audit report for July 2011 came in at 729 pages; the combined report for July through December was 727. Wallner said there could potentially be a difference in the printing settings, but he couldn’t say for certain without more information.

Dan Larson, an employee at First Choice Auto Body since 2010, said owner William Ross had come to him with concerns Wadaga was stealing from the company.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s start counting,'” he said.

They tabulated the amount of petty cash in the cash box at $103. Two days later, it was at $3.

Under cross-examination, Larson said the cashbox was kept in the same cabinet; both cabinet and box were locked at night. However, he did recall some instances where he was able to see the open box unsecured during the work day.

Hyde asked Larson about alleged conversations with Wadaga in which he expressed concerns that Ross was taking too much money from his business. Larson said he could not recall having such a talk, and had never had thoughts along those lines.

A second accountant Ross brought on to look at the numbers to determine if there were discrepancies was scheduled to testify Tuesday, but would not have taken the stand until shortly before Judge Charles Goodman’s 5 p.m. cutoff for the trial day. Hyde said he would likely take at least half an hour for cross-examination.

Goodman said he would extend if the jury was willing to stretch its day even further. It wasn’t.

The trial was scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.

Wadaga is charged with embezzlement of $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a 10-year felony. Her trial is scheduled to go through Friday.