Risk Management

Accountant Uses Toilet Humor in Check Scam

He creates a porta-potty company called "Mr. John" to help steal $2.8 million, Manhattan D.A. charges.
Stephen Taub and Roy HarrisJuly 3, 2008

He may be no Einstein. But a former Tishman Construction Corp. project accountant alleged to have stolen $2.8 million in a check-writing scam certainly has a gift for toilet humor.

John Hoeffner was charged with stealing $2.8 million from Tishman in a phony invoicing scheme connected with a project at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, according to Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. Hoeffner — who faces numerous counts of grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, and falsifying business records — could serve up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Hoeffner forged vendor invoices and altered checks while assigned by Tishman to the Einstein College project between March 31, 2006, and May 13, 2008. As project accountant, Hoeffner was responsible for receiving invoices for payment from vendors and subcontractors, preparing checks for signature by senior Tishman managers, and distributing the checks to the payees.

He is accused of incorporating a phony company to carry out his scheme, in which he allegedly altered and deposited a total of 99 checks. In the case of eight altered checks, he had them made out to a portable-toilet vendor named “Mr. John.” Hoeffner allegedly added his own surname to the checks to facilitate theft of the funds. The 107 checks altered and deposited totaled more than $2.8 million.

The theft was discovered by a Tishman auditor during a review of the company’s various projects. The auditor noticed a suspicious check, which prompted Tishman to conduct a full-scale review of all invoices and checks from the entire Albert Einstein College project.

According to The New York Daily News, Hoeffner sent a quarter of a million ill-gotten dollars to his girlfriend in Colombia and made a $105,000 down payment on a home in Queens. Prosecutors say most of the stolen money remains unaccounted for, according to the report. Hoeffner’s lawyer, however, was quoted in the article as saying his client offered to hand over more than $500,000. Attempts by CFO.com to reach Hoeffner were unsuccessful.

Hoeffner is no stranger to the legal system, according to the Daily News, which said he had been sentenced in January to probation and community service for stealing $400,000 from Bovis Lend Lease, another major construction company.

“What the court didn’t know at the time was that this defendant had been stealing from Tishman for a couple of years before that,” Manhattan prosecutor Judy Salwen reportedly said.