headshot of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson
Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office is reminding senior living companies and other organizations to include checks and balances in their financial processes to help ensure that fraud doesn’t occur, after a former employee of a nonprofit continuing care retirement community in the state allegedly stole at least $118,768 from the community where she worked.

“It’s vital that government entities, nonprofits and other organizations separate financial responsibilities between more than one individual,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “In this case, the same person responsible for the accounting records was also involved in preparing cash for deposit, taking the cash to the bank and performing bank reconciliations.”

Mariam Renee Wells, the former controller of the 89-bed Wood Presbyterian Home in Sweetwater, TN, was indicted in January on one count of theft of property, $60,000 to $250,000. The alleged fraud took place between March 2014 and May 2018, the comptroller’s office said.

Wells allegedly kept cash that she was supposed to deposit into the CCRC’s bank account. She was able to avoid detection for more than four years because she also was responsible for reconciling bank statements with the accounting records, the comptroller’s office said.

“In May 2018, Wells became concerned that her theft was about to be discovered,” the comptroller’s office said. “She informed the facility’s executive director that she had embezzled at least $20,000. During that same meeting, she tendered a $20,000 personal check and resigned from her position effective May 31, 2018.”

Wells reportedly subsequently told investigators that she stole cash for her personal use and that the comptroller’s calculation of $118,768 was “probably correct.”