A company secretary at a large multi-departmental construction company handled paperwork and received payments from customers, mainly in cheque format.
It was the person's responsibility to write out company cheques in respect of payment to suppliers, which should have been approved and signed by the company Chairman.
It had been noted that the company accounts had recently been showing many discrepancies, and an investigation was begun into the possible cause.
It was suspected that the company secretary may be processing cheques fraudulently and making payments into their own personal account. It was reported by several customers that they had been requested to 'leave the payee section blank' on their cheques because the suspect 'didn't know which department it needed to be paid to yet'.
Police referred the case to the LGC Forensics Questioned Documents team for investigation. Exhibits submitted included:
One partially used company cheque book:-
Microfiche copies of cheques paid into the suspect's personal bank account
Specimens of handwriting taken from the suspect – in cheque format
Various handwritten application forms and training documents held on the suspect's employment file
Specimens of known signatures from the Company Chairman
An initial examination of the microfiche copies and the cheque book by LGC revealed that some of the cheques paid into the suspect's personal account corresponded to cheque numbers previously removed from the cheque book. They appeared to have been signed by the Company Chairman. Other cheques were recognised as belonging to customers but were made payable to the suspect. Differences in handwriting style were noted between the 'payee' entries on these cheques, and the remaining entries (amounts etc). Using specialised techniques impressions of indented writing were also recovered from the uppermost cheque remaining in the cheque book.
The signatures on cheques apparently signed by the Company Chairman were compared to his reference signatures, and conclusive support was found for him having signed them. However, he maintained that he only ever signed cheques made payable to legitimate suppliers. There was also found to be conclusive support that the non-signature handwriting on these cheques had been completed by the suspect. One of the cheque numbers was found to correspond to the last cheque removed from the chequebook. An ESDA* examination was carried out on the uppermost cheque remaining in the cheque book. Impressions were found which could be overlaid precisely onto the copy of the last cheque removed from the book. However, the impressions showed that the cheque was originally made payable to a real supplier. The copy showed that by the time it was paid in, the cheque was made payable to the suspect, clearly demonstrating that it had been altered in the meantime.
A comparison of the handwriting on the cheques belonging to customers was made against the specimen handwriting. Strong support was found for the suspect having completed the payee sections on each of these cheques.
Further examinations of the cheque stubs remaining in the chequebook were carried out. It was determined, through the use of various lighting techniques, that many of the stubs had been altered via various methods. Some entries had been physically abraded, others written with an 'erasable' pen, and others simply overwritten or crossed out. It was possible to determine what had originally been written on almost all of the cheque stubs, and how each alteration had been carried out. The evidence provided proved to be extremely useful during the trial that followed the completion of the forensic investigation work.
= an electrostatic technique used to visualise impressions of indented handwriting.