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Publisher May Scott Trade Press
This is a book about friendship. Olivier is a young accountant in Atlanta. He investigates the mysterious disappearance of several documents and a series of frauds. His life seems to be all written before him until he meets a fascinating new set of friends.
High school class discussions of a broad range of topics are included: bribery, parental relationships, cooking, gambling and purchasing property.
As usual in any business, sometimes you don’t have enough to do, and then suddenly there is too much work. For one, Olivier had been too eager to accept invitations to give a few talks. He discovered that he had overbooked himself for June, when a huge case of potential embezzlement fell in his lap. It was the unpleasant case of a car dealer. According to Olivier, the manager himself, Patrick Wilson, was robbing the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Olivier was still working on the McCann-Mitty case.
Mitty had handled the accounts of about 20 small companies. His disappearance, along with his files, was bad news for a lot of good people. The first thing Olivier had noticed was that Eve McCann’s company was filed under the business name “Classic Books,” but there was also a corporation in Athens, Georgia, managed by a certain David Matty from Toronto, called Classic and Books. What about that! It was too much of a coincidence. The FBI got interested and was checking the other accounts. It turned out that four companies that Danny Mitty was in charge of had a double somewhere with almost the same name and the exact same income statement and balance sheet as the real company. At first glance, it would look like somebody made a typo in the name of the company. Behind the basic numbers, however, everything was different. Expenses were justified by invoices of fake companies and were paid by checks signed by none other than David Matty. He was laundering money through a vast number of fake companies and individuals. Ultimately, the money found its way into an IBC, an international business corporation in the Seychelles, near Madagascar.
The Canadian police found that Mr. David Matty from Toronto was unknown to them. David Matty’s bank accounts in Athens had been closed two days after Danny had disappeared from Atlanta. Whatever his real name was, nobody could even figure out how much Danny Mitty or David Matty had accumulated, where he had worked, not even for whom. Probably a drug lord, maybe a terrorist. It was not on the scale of Enron, but it was irritating enough.
The case was dragging on. Norman and Olivier were both frustrated. Where was that man? His car had been found downtown in a parking lot. No fingerprints were in the car. As a matter of fact, no fingerprints were found anywhere. He was somewhere, under a new name, spending money that might never be recovered.
However, it’s difficult to leave without a trace nowadays. There was a photograph of him on his driver’s license. The FBI found that he had left fingerprints when he had applied for a concealed weapons permit under the name of Danny Mitty. Agent Wheeler, rather talkative for an FBI Agent, let Norman know that the Mitty-of-the-fingerprints had never been arrested, so they still were not sure who he was. The FBI was trying their face recognition software to find his trace at the Atlanta airport. It was a major hassle, as the Airport handles tens of thousands of passengers every day and the driver’s license photo was not of the best quality. So far, his face had not been matched with any of the passengers to Toronto. Agent Wheeler was less worried about finding Danny Mitty than about finding his boss, the mystery man behind this, and understanding what the money was for. These days, one worried even more about terrorism than about drug cartels. After that, the FBI agent clammed up, leaving the lawyer very frustrated. Obviously, passengers to the Seychelles would be next on the FBI list, but no news came in.
Norman said, “I bet his real name is somewhere in his files.”
“He was really certified as Mitty, I checked that, he graduated from Keller, here in Atlanta. He first worked for a firm in Duluth, they had nothing good or bad to say about him, just yes, he had worked there. He could have changed his name before he went to school, and he would have had to do it if he was a felon, but his fingerprints are not on file, so why do it?”
“There are lots of reasons why people want to change their name, one of the main ones is to escape a spouse or to avoid paying for child support. But I bet you can find him, you know.”
Olivier answered, “The FBI is much better equipped than I am. They’ll find him. They will send his fingerprints to Interpol, check his medical records, check his medications, and see if he keeps subscribing to his favorite magazines, they’ll find him. It’s much more difficult to disappear than before 9/11.”
“If you ever get any idea, please let me know.”
They did not want the man to get away with it, and that cemented their friendship. Olivier referred clients to Norman for tax advice and Norman used Olivier as an auditor for his clients. In any other respect, they were very different. Norman Cuffin was an in-your-face type of guy and he looked like it. Small and compactly built, assertive, he usually impressed the jury. Olivier was lanky, laid-back, always smiling, never showing tension, and most people underestimated him. They made quite a pair.
Norman had become an assiduous visitor at the house. He was obviously attracted to Dahlia-Rose and Olivier tried to fight the feeling that he was annoyed by it.
Patrick Wilson, the manager of Bypass Auto, was in deep trouble. He stood accused of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, making multiple false statements and aggravated identity theft. It was the second case where Olivier was involved with the local FBI. There were two things he did not understand at all. First. How come the preceding auditor had not seen anything wrong? Why hadn’t he checked for duplicate entries? Wilson had a loan and a line of credit amounting to over 2 million dollars. He’d spent the money on a high-end lifestyle and made false statements to the bank. Second. How did Wilson convince himself that it would last? This was not a case of a small swindler who gets in deep and deeper trouble. It was a man who had never even considered reimbursing the bank. He cheated on the inventory, passed off cars he had on consignment as his own, falsified information on his loan applications, inflated the number of cars sold, and practiced the most rudimentary check kiting.
Olivier explained his frustration to Dahlia-Rose. She asked what kiting was. “Kiting is taking advantage of the delay between the time you deposit a check and the time it is processed. It is also called the float.”
“I didn’t know that it was illegal.”
“It is illegal when the way you use it is equivalent to getting a loan that the bank would not give to you. Well, roughly, that’s what it is: using the float as a system to defraud the bank.”
“OK, so why are you frustrated?”
“Because Wilson stole about two million dollars and he did not think! He had no plan, he just improvised ways to get away with it that were going to last a few months at most, - he was lucky, it lasted almost two years - and I don’t understand it. Plus, he had the guts to ask me if I could help him! I just don’t understand what he wanted to do!”
“I know the answer to that question. You don’t understand Wilson because you always know things in advance. You know what we’re going to eat for the whole week, and how much we are going to spend this month on food. Most people know just what they are going to eat today. You know that next year you are going to buy a cistern and a pump for rainwater, and you told me to try to establish a budget for groundcover in the front yard. Most people do not think a year or two in advance, they think at most a few weeks in advance. I guess crooks are no different. Some crooks think a year in advance, many think only a day or two in advance.”
“You’re right, it is all about the capacity to anticipate. People develop it or they don’t, I suppose. Being a crook has nothing to do with it.”
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I once promised that if I came out of poor health, I would write a book to make people smile: ON PETS AND MEN. VAGUE SOUVENIR is about a French-American couple forming during WWii. CRIMES OF THE BALANCE SHEET is about friendship. I had three lives, one in Belgium where I was born and became a Pastor and Civil Rights activist (1940-1971), one in France as a scientist (1971-1998) and one in the United States as a happy mom re-united with her children and sweetly retired. I also published in French a novel, 50 short stories for children and a political book illustrated by Virginia Leirens (a companion of Chagall).