Secretary Stole Millions From Salomon Brothers Icon With the Swipe of a Pen

An interesting thing about fraud is that it’s not a difficult thing to do, at least mechanically: Once a would-be crook decides to make his move, ill-getting gains can be as simple as a color printer, scanner and a fake P.O. Box, a made-up case of malaria or some opportunistic penmanship. Take the latter example.

Federal prosecutors charged a former secretary with stealing nearly $2 million from veteran banker William Salomon Jr., The New York Times reported on Friday. Mr. Salomon, 98, served as senior managing partner at Salomon Brothers in the 1960s and ’70s, according to The Times, and presided over the firm’s transformation into a bond-trading powerhouse. Mr. Salomon, keeps an office at Citigroup, the successor to the firm founded by his father, and it was there that his longtime assistant, Karen R. Febles, apparently executed her scheme:

Mr. Salomon authorized Ms. Febles to prepare personal checks that he would sign. After he signed the checks, many of which were made out to “cash” or “petty cash,” Ms. Febles would alter the withdrawal amount and deposit excess funds in her own bank account, according to the government’s complaint.

In 2010, for example, Mr. Salomon’s expenses, paid in cash, totaled about $450,000, but checks in excess of $1.1 million were issued that year from his bank accounts, the complaint said. Prosecutors say that Ms. Febles was the only other person given access to his accounts.

The money, totaling $1.8 million, is said to have been stolen in small increments over a period of years. In one instance, prosecutors say, Ms. Febles made out a check for “nine hundred” dollars, but when the check was negotiated, the words “nine thousand” were added before the words “nine hundred.”

So easy, though we suppose getting away with it is the hard part.