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Office manager charged with embezzling $567,000 from medical practice

Kerry Henderson Spachman Kerry Henderson Spachman

The office manager of a well-known medical practice faces nine felonies after her arrest on charges that she embezzled $567,000 from the clinic.

Kerry Henderson Spachman, 57, faces a March hearing on the charges, which came after a Hendersonville police detective and an SBI agent investigated the case over a two-year period. She worked at the internal medicine practice of Dr.  James J. Caserio, a 1978 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who has been practicing here for more than 45 years. Spachman worked in the office from 2008 until she was fired in September 2020 after the practice discovered how the money went missing.

From 2013 to 2019, search warrant applications show, Spachman embezzled $567,233.64 by writing checks payable to cash and depositing them into her personal accounts at State Employees Credit Union and First Citizens Bank. On 81 checks, totaling $82,069, she used Caserio’s signature stamp, the warrant said. The rest — 485 checks totaling $485,165 — Caserio signed unknowingly when the manager commingled “the fraudulent checks with legitimate office and payroll checks,” Michael B. Phillips, a special agent with the SBI, said in one of numerous search warrant applications the Lightning reviewed.

Detectives also suspected that Spachman used Caserio’s business credit and debit cards to make 550 online purchases from Amazon, eBay and PayPal plus airline tickets from American, United, Southwest and Jet Blue. The online purchases totaled $174,824. Although Caserio and his family members believe those were orders for Spachman, her family and friends, detectives and prosecutors say they could not charge her with theft because they believed they could not prove who actually took possession of the merchandise, which was delivered to Caserio's internal medicine practice.

When a reporter visited her briefly on her front porch on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, Spachman declined to answer questions about the case.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” she said. “I don’t want to say anything.”

Check signatures forged

As office manager, Spachman was responsible for answering the phone, making payroll, paying the clinic’s bills, managing the budget and making deposits. Dr. Caserio told detectives that the manager did not have authority to sign checks or use office credit or debit cards without authorization, nor had he ever authorized extra payments to her beyond her regular paycheck.

The alleged thefts over seven years came to light some time before the summer of 2020 after Dr. Caserio asked his daughter, Christina Caserio, to examine the financial records. In September 2020, Hendersonville police detective Malinda Durner received a call from Sharon Alexander, Dr. Caserio’s attorney, who reported that the clinic’s office manager had allegedly been embezzling money since approximately 2008. (The investigation identified thefts starting in 2013.) Alexander said Spachman had been writing checks to herself in small amounts, under $2,000, and that Christina Caserio had created a spreadsheet showing that in 2016 Spachman had “diverted approximately $300,000 into her own account,” Durner said in an application for a search warrant.

The next day, Dr. Caserio’s wife, Marcia, called Durner to formally report the office embezzlement and two weeks later met with the detective in person to go over the findings of her investigation. In the first phone conversation to report the theft, Mrs. Caserio said that when Spachman was told why she was being terminated, she responded, “I didn’t take that much.”

Durner said that in checking Spachman’s social media activity, she learned that a daughter had gotten married in September 2019. “I also observed that she went on a family vacation in Nassau with possibly nine family (members) and friends,” the detective said.

As she examined the suspected fraudulent checks, Durner noticed that Dr. Caserio’s signature “changes a number of times and appears to be forged.” In the search warrant application she submitted in October 2020, Durner documented losses from fraudulent checks of $24,100 in 2016, $109,975 in 2017, $177,450 in 2018, $87,561 in 2019 and $14,075 in 2020.

Spachman wrote checks to “cash” or to herself, then deposited them into her personal account at State Employees Credit Union or First Citizens Bank, Durner said. In the clinic’s business ledger, she would write that the checks had been paid to Dr. Caserio. She also wrote numerous checks to herself that she recorded in the business ledger as payments to vendors, Durner said. Marcia Caserio told the detective in the course of the investigation that vendors had been calling to report that the practice was delinquent in payments. During the in-person meeting with the detective, Mrs. Caserio said Spachman “could have easily taken advantage of how busy Dr. Caserio is and just hand him checks while he is busy with patients and ask him to sign the checks, or she could be forging his signature.”

Caserio: ‘I was going to lose my whole practice’

It was not as if the practice didn’t miss the money, Dr. Caseerio said in an interview Tuesday. The problem was that he never suspect an office manager he deeply trusted was embezzling money from the business.

“So we kind of figured that (Medicare) reimbursements were down and we were making less income and I kept working more and more,” he said. “She falsified checks, forged my name on checks, and took a loan out for $103,000 all on line and falsified my name and my signature. She created a false Amazon account and charged a couple hundred thousand on that.”

The financial situation became so dire that Caserio worried he couldn’t make payroll. His sister, Rebecca, who has since died of cancer, “was a very wealthy physician and she set up a deposit for emergency use only to make payroll," he said. "We weren’t making payroll. I didn’t make a paycheck.”

Although Caserio never used the emergency fund, Spachman did, he said. “She pulled a substantial amount from that too. … I was going to lose my whole practice.”

Caserio finally asked his daughter, Christina, to look at the books to see if she could spot what was wrong. She was the right person for the job.

“I look at data all day long,” she said. “My specialty is pattern recognition. There was a specific pattern. I was the one that did the primary data collection” by tracking the forged checks and creating the spreadsheet police used. “I made sure for my family’s benefit not to leave a single stone unturned.”

When Dr. Caserio fired Spachman, she expressed no remorse, he said, and instead rationalized her actions and warned him not to go to police. According to Caserio, she said: “You have every reason to hate me but I didn’t take that much and I didn’t spend it on myself.” She went on to say that “people think doctors make too much money and it didn’t affect my lifestyle and if I pursue it it’s going to make me look greedy in the community,” he said.

Because the embezzlement was so large, the case was eventually reviewed after city police and the SBI finished their investigation by the district attorney here and the state attorney general’s office. Although Spachman is charged with taking $567,000 from 2013 until she was fired in 2020, Caserio and his daughter believe that may represent only around half of the total because they could not recover records from 2008 to 2013.

“Here’s the sad thing,” he said. “The banks only keep checks for seven years. This went on for 12 years. … It’s a sad thing. It all evolved because she won my trust and because of the trust she felt she could take advantage of me. The saddest thing about betrayal is it never comes from your enemies. It comes from the closest, the dearest, the people we trust the most.”

Defense seeks case files

Spachman’s attorney, Christopher S. Stepp, did not return a phone call requesting comment about the embezzlement case. In a motion for voluntary discovery he filed on Dec. 21, a week after his client’s arrest, Stepp asked prosecutors or law enforcement agencies to:

  • Turn over complete case files, including statements by a witness or the defendant, detectives’ notes and any physical evidence.
  • Identify any expert witnesses that state expects to call and describe their qualifications.
  • Turn over search warrants and arrest warrants.
  • Describe any conversation that may have occurred between Spachman and law officers and describe any visual or electronic surveillance investigators made of her.
  • Turn over any notes investigators may have made that would tend to “refute, impeach or contradict” any evidence prosecutors plan to use at trial, and any evidence they have that would “tend to indicate in any way that someone other than the defendant committed the crimes charged.”