After working in the VyStar credit union mail room for more than 20 years, Duane Sikes has been indicted for stealing $5.4 million between 2002 and 2017. Sikes now faces five counts of embezzlement and 10 counts of mail fraud. VyStar Credit Union is based in Jacksonville, Florida.
According to the indictment and a report from Jacksonville’s WOKV, Sikes quietly used his mailroom position to earn money on the side. A lot of money. As part of his duties in the mailroom, Sikes is accused of using VyStar-issued checks to purchase postage stamps. After working on the job for eight years, Sikes began allegedly buying large amounts of stamps, far more than the credit union needed, and selling them to a company in New York. The New York company would then resell the stamps and send a portion of the sales to Sikes.
It’s not uncommon for employees to steal from their company. Cybersecurity experts believe that up to 59% of former employees will steal proprietary corporate data of some kind upon leaving the company. Insider employees who have already gained the trust of the business they are working for often have privileged access to information within a system. This privilege is a vulnerability that forces businesses to measure risk vs benefit vs cost when it comes to employee access.
And Fortune 500 companies aren’t the only organizations at risk from insider threats like embezzlement, employee theft, and fraud. Even small, local companies are at risk. In fact, because small businesses often lack sophisticated quality assurance programs, internal audits, and cybersecurity systems, they are actually more vulnerable to internal theft in many ways.
Small business face less outside scrutiny as well. For instance, small businesses with assets between $1 million and $5 million are audited by the IRS at a rate of 1.2%. Large corporations (assets in excess of $10 million) are audited at a rate of 6.2%.
When employees steal from their company, whether they are stealing data or money, the key factor is easy access. Many white collar crimes start as crimes of opportunity. Of course, in time, they can be quite lucrative for the perpetrator.
According to the indictment, Sikes earned more than $3.6 million between 2007 and 2017 selling stamps. If he’s convicted, Sikes will have to forfeit the illicit stamp collection proceeds, an estimated $3.6 million, and any other money tied to the embezzlement charges.
In a statement, VyStar called the incident an “isolated incident.”
VyStar contacted the authorities the moment they discovered Sikes’ actions and have been cooperating fully with the investigation. They assure all customers that their accounts and personal information is safe and was not compromised in any way.