Last updated: January 07. 2014 2:42PM - 10557 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com



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The former office manager of Mount Airy Vision Center has been charged with two counts of embezzlement and six counts of obtaining property for false pretense, involving a loss of at least $212,322, city police say.


Rene Boyles Bowman, 49, now resides in Statesville, but is said to have lived in Mount Airy at the time of the alleged wrongdoing. She turned herself in Monday at the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office on the eight local felony charges that capped an investigation lasting nearly a year.


“It’s been very extensive,” investigating officer Brandon Davis, a detective with the Mount Airy Police Department, said Tuesday regarding the case when announcing its conclusion.


“It’s been going on since 2006 and ended in 2012,” Davis said of the period covered by the alleged crimes, which coincided with Bowman becoming office manager at Mount Airy Vision Center in 2006. “Mrs. Bowman had been an employee there since the ’90s — and she was trusted.”


Bowman is suspected of violating that trust in various ways, including skimming cash from bank deposits, which she was in charge of processing. After the money had been received at Mount Airy Vision Center and properly credited for payments, some would be removed when the deposit was actually made, the investigation showed.


Davis said customer accounts were not affected.


Bowman also allegedly abused other funding instruments of the business such as a checking account and credit and debit cards.


“To be honest, she was using them regularly and frivolously,” the detective said, “for anything and everything.” This included fast-food purchases, tanning services and numerous others. “It looked as if she was using them as her sole source of funds,” Davis continued, saying the money taken apparently enabled Bowman to finance a lifestyle she couldn’t otherwise.


The two embezzlement counts filed against Bowman include one involving more than $100,000 in funds and one of less than $100,000. The detective explained that this reflects the lumping together of some of the allegations to allow the former office manager to be prosecuted for a higher-grade felony.


While the embezzlement charges stem from misuses of business resources that were under Bowman’s direct control, the six false pretense counts against her stem from crimes including unlawful activities that victimized its payroll operations, and each of the counts is for a separate year of the six years she was office manager.


For example, she allegedly told an accountant for the business that Mount Airy Vision Center owner Dr. Michael Clark had authorized her to be paid for vacation time she was entitled to, but not yet taken. “Which was a complete falsity,” the detective said. Another incident involved a false claim by Bowman that she had been granted extra vacation time, for which she was compensated.


The bulk of the $212,322 allegedly lost in the various schemes was for the embezzlement portion of the case, more than $187,000. Davis said additional payroll-related abuses above the $24,803 known to have been taken in that category are suspected but have not been pinpointed.


Davis said an internal investigation at Mount Airy Vision Center was sparked in December 2012 after possible financial irregularities surfaced. “To sum it up, the business was having financial difficulties, all of a sudden, when it hadn’t previously,” he said. The owner, Dr. Clark, only spends a limited time at Mount Airy Vision Center.


That led to further inquiry with the help of the accountant for the business, which turned up numerous “red flags” meriting an official inquiry, Davis said. Bowman reportedly was dismissed early on in the process when her potential criminal activity became apparent.


Clark and his attorney filed an incident report with the Mount Airy Police Department concerning the financial irregularities in late February, launching the detective unit’s involvement.


Davis said that in addition to poring through numerous accounts related to the case, a court order had to be filed to obtain Bowman’s financial records, which took extra time.


The woman has been released under a $15,000 secured bond and is scheduled to make a court appearance on Feb. 6.


Davis said Mount Airy Vision Center has remained in business, and hopes to recoup some of its losses through insurance coverage and restitution payments and possibly civil judgments.


Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.com.

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