Looking Back: OU employee charged with embezzling in 1995

previous employee of Oakland University’s Graham Health Center (GHC) was sentenced in April 1996 for four counts of embezzlement from the medical center.

In the summer of 1995, an internal audit of the GHC found there was $30,000 missing from the center’s budget since the 1991-92 fiscal year. Mary Paige, a secretary at the GHC, was initially charged with embezzlement of $1,172 of the total $30,000.

On Nov. 2, 1995, Paige was brought to the 52nd District Court in Rochester Hills for her arraignment. While in court, Paige did not say a word, leading to the court entering a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

Paige was in charge of making deposits for the center while working in the GHC. Michelle Pagel, an OU accounting clerk in the cashier’s office, testified during Paige’s hearing about Paige’s responsibilities while working for the health center and also the procedures for how the university maintains its records.

“One of Michelle’s main functions in testifying was to establish that these were business records that are not kept simply for criminal prosecution,” said Lt. Mel Gilroy of OU’s Department of Public Safety.

Other testimonies included a representative from the cashier’s office and OU’s then Internal Audit Director David Vartanian.

Vartanian, during his testimony, discussed the manner in which Paige stole money from the university. The amount that Paige was accused of stealing increased as the trial went on, with the total being $2,113 by the time Vartanian testified.

The internal audit director called what Paige did “a classic lapping case” in embezzling the GHC’s money. A lapping case is where an employee steals money by taking a payment from one charge and using another payment to cover the cost of that charge.

Paige, Vartanian testified, would take a student’s payments to the center and use another student’s payment to cover the first, while not recording the second student’s payment taking place, taking the money for herself.

Paige eventually pled no contest to the embezzlement at a later arraignment, meaning that she would be able to withdraw the plea if she disagreed with the sentence and go to trial instead. If convicted, she would face a maximum of 10 years in prison, or a minimum sentence of some time on probation.

Finally, Paige was sentenced by Oakland County Circuit Judge Barry Howard to serve one year of jail time in Oakland County Jail, along with five years of probation. Paige ultimately spent one week in jail before being turned over to the probation division’s tether program. Paige spent the remainder of her jail time confined to her house.

“The tether program is ordered by the judge in lieu of jail,” the then Oakland County Probation Supervisor, Bill Elsenheimer, said.

Along with the jail and probation time, Paige was required to pay back the final amount of $44,166 that was found missing by Vartanian. Vartanian said that was the final amount found was allegedly five years of embezzlement.