Meet the Fraudster: Nathan Mueller
Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!
Blake Oliver: [00:00:00] If you'd like to earn CPE credit for listening to this episode, visit your mark CPE ABC.com. Download the app. Take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. Continuing education has never been so easy. And now on to the episode.
Greg Kyte: [00:00:25] Hello and welcome to Oh My Fraud, a true crime podcast where our criminals cut checks instead of necks. I'm Greg Kight.
Caleb Newquist: [00:00:34] And I'm Caleb Newquist. Greg, I am excited for this episode today. You know why?
Greg Kyte: [00:00:41] Why is that? Caleb Newquist?
Caleb Newquist: [00:00:43] Well, for starters, we are doing a follow up episode from an earlier episode episode four, which is entitled with great check writing Power Comes Great Responsibility. Yep. And. It is worth the hour. Our episode is an interview of the perpetrator of that fraud. That's why I'm excited. Are you excited?
Greg Kyte: [00:01:07] Yes. We interviewed Nathan Mueller. The dude stole over $8 Million from insurance giant IMG in the early 2000s and which is one of my favorite fraud cases ever. And I've done tons of webinars and live events where I've referenced this fraud. So I kept thinking that I was like, like, am I Nathan Mueller's biggest fan? But it's weird to be a fan of a guy who committed a crime. But I know. But listen, I know a hell, a lot of a lot more about Nathan Mueller than I do about like Adele or Tom Segura, and I am fans of them. So it's a weird, weird place to be.
Caleb Newquist: [00:01:48] So let me ask you, what is it about this fraud that makes it one of your favorites?
Greg Kyte: [00:01:55] Honestly, I think one of the big things that makes it one of my favorites is that the first account that I ever read of this fraud was Nathan Mueller's own account of it. So the fact that we got some inside baseball on it, but then it's also just fun, as we'll see with the interview, we we get into it. There's some there's some weird turns and twists that happen as this fraud continues. Some close calls that he had that were just delightful for those of us who weren't committing the fraud, but probably the exact opposite for Nathan while he was in the thick of it.
Caleb Newquist: [00:02:34] Yeah. I mean, I had this this ended up being a great conversation. I. I didn't know what to expect. I am not a fanboy on the level that you are. I'm not even a fanboy. I am a I'm a fan of this case. I am. I like this. I thought it was a good story, but then able to like get the guy and sit him down and and just hear him out was thoroughly enjoyable. And I learned a lot. And of course we'll talk about all that stuff at the end. But I feel like you've got your, your, your fanboy energy. It's the right level of fanboy energy. That's what I'm saying to you.
Greg Kyte: [00:03:14] Oh, good. Yeah. I wasn't encouraging him to do more fraud. Like, like, what's it right? When's your next album drop?
Caleb Newquist: [00:03:21] Nathan Yeah, it's like, is it time for a comeback? Is that what? Right. I wouldn't want him to leave with feeling that he's like, Oh.
Greg Kyte: [00:03:29] Maybe this, right? I think you got it in it. I think you got an Indian.
Caleb Newquist: [00:03:32] Nathan Yeah. Anyway, well, having said all that, let's get into our conversation with Nathan Mueller.
Greg Kyte: [00:03:50] Nathan, again, so glad to have you on the podcast. Just to let you just to give you a little more context than the emails that we sent back and forth. I don't know if it's right to say this, but I'm kind of like a super fan of yours because I way back in it was I think it was in 2014, there was an article in the Journal of Accountancy where the majority of the article was first person like you wrote. I assume you wrote that and you submit it, and then they put kind of some commentary around that. Is that right?
Nathan Mueller: [00:04:17] Yeah. So I, I wrote that from prison. Oh. And so that was me and Mark Greaney going back and forth via our email system at the time and through the mail, writing, editing, getting feedback from the Journal of Accountancy on how to do that. So yeah, it was a, it was an interesting endeavor to do. Prison email is like the email we had in like the nineties where straight text, you know, I had 15 minutes at a time to be on each, each minute on email. It cost me $0.15. So it was write down my notes and blast through it on email and get it back to him and get it submitted. So it was a probably not your standard article writing procedure.
Greg Kyte: [00:05:02] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that was maybe a little easier than like using your one phone call to just call in to the and say, transcribe this real quick. Well well we, we got one shot. Let's go AICPA Well we'll getting up to I mean and I guess just to give the listeners a little bit context as well. So you were you were convicted of a fraud. You stole a little bit over $8 million from the insurance company AIG. So far, so good.
Caleb Newquist: [00:05:29] I Angie, Gregg.
Nathan Mueller: [00:05:30] Angie.
Greg Kyte: [00:05:31] I am Angie. What did I say? Is it AIG? What was it? Yeah. Oh, I, I screw everything up all the so.
Caleb Newquist: [00:05:39] Just to just to prepare you. Just to prepare you. Nathan a little bit. A regular theme of this podcast is Greg saying things and me correcting him. So look forward to that. Yeah.
Greg Kyte: [00:05:55] Yeah. I'll, I'll, I'll read numbers and even though they're correct in my notes, I'll say them wrong, That's, that's the sort of brain damage. I'm going to blame it on COVID. But let's and that happened between, if I remember right, like 2004 and 2007 is when when the fraud was happening, Right.
Nathan Mueller: [00:06:14] Yeah. So the the there's basically like the phase one, which I call which was 83,000 I stole over the summer of, of 2003, I stopped for about six months, went back in in March of oh four for phase two and that went on until so from April of oh four until September of oh seven.
Greg Kyte: [00:06:35] Okay, got gotcha. Now, just just again, I mean, part of the story that I don't know, tell us kind of your like your life journey getting how old were you when when all that was going down, approximately?
Nathan Mueller: [00:06:48] I started the fraud when I was 29. Okay. So I had been in that position, in that not position, but in that company for six years at that point. So it wasn't you know, it wasn't a brand new situation. It was years of growth within a within a small department, within a big company with a lot of knowledge and experience across the board. You know, how things worked, how our audits words, how my bosses checked my work. You know, I had I had a good understanding of how things worked there when I decided to go down that right.
Greg Kyte: [00:07:27] Got you. Well, what tell me kind of growing up, like, where did did you grow up in Minnesota? What was what was growing up like? What was your family's situation like? What did you study in college? Stuff like that. Kind of give us the the the pre fraud resume for Nathan Mueller.
Nathan Mueller: [00:07:44] I don't know. So I, I grew up in a small town, like 3000 people, South Central Minnesota. I look back at my childhood and think, okay, you know, I had a I had a loving, supportive family in that small town, you know, star athlete. I got good grades. I was popular. I had all this positivity in my life, but I wasn't happy, you know, even, you know, as a as a teenager, I was not happy. And so I think what I what I thought at the time was, well, I have a great family. I do well in school and popular. I do well in sports. I have all this positivity. What don't I have? And it was money. You know, our family didn't have a lot of money. And so I saw how placed a lot of importance on, you know, is money the thing that's going to make me happy? Is it going to be the thing that makes, you know, makes my life fulfilling is going to be the thing that that makes people view me as successful. And I think that that's kind of the road I took. So when I looked at college, I went into accounting because in my small town there was two CPAs. They drove nice. Cars. They had nice homes. They had this financial success respect within the community and stability that I that I wanted, you know, that. And so I took an accounting class in high school. I decided I'm going to be an accountant. So I majored in accounting. I went to college just right down the road from my home town ten miles away. Good school. You know, they they want me to play football later. They had a good accounting program. But for me, college was like it was a shortcut.
Nathan Mueller: [00:09:17] It was my goal was get a degree and get a job because I need to start making money. You know, that was always my goal was the money. And so I didn't think, you know, I didn't go to college and experience college. I didn't go to college and, you know, make a ton of friends. I didn't I didn't go to college to even, like, get an education. I went there to get a degree, to get a job. And that's what I did. And so what college ended up being for me was, you know, I didn't focus on the right things. I focused on getting through as quickly as possible. So I yeah, I finished in three and a half years, but I had an average GPA. And in the accounting world, as you guys probably know, when you finish it, you want to get a job with one of those big firms. When you come to campus to interview, they're not talking to people with a, you know, 2.7 GPA. They're talking to people with a three, five and higher. So I had limited myself from those jobs from the start. And so, you know, my career started with a lower level internship at a you know, I literally worked for a CPA, his wife and his daughter, in a small, you know, firm. And it was, you know, part of it was just my eagerness to get through school and not really care about how it did. The other thing was I just didn't know. You know, I was very naive to the accounting world in every way, which included hiring and how to get a job, you know, at the places you actually want to work.
Caleb Newquist: [00:10:34] So, yeah, I have to say, if I may, a lot of what you describe I personally can resonate, personally resonates with me because I also grew up in a very small town in the in flyover country, and my family did not have a lot of money, but I had a friend whose dad was a CPA and like they had a great house and like all the things you described, they had a great boat, like all this stuff. And I also was kind of like, again, loving family, a lot of support. I was not popular, I was not good at sports.
Greg Kyte: [00:11:04] So that was that's what I was going to say. The sports part could not have resonated with you. You got no upper body strength.
Caleb Newquist: [00:11:11] So it's not a it's not a perfect image, Greg. It's not a perfect mirror image, but it's close. But there's a lot of what all I'm saying is a lot of what you say. Nathan I can personally relate to you because I accounting did. What I understood was that the kind of the economic mobility that accounting could provide to me, that part was like clear to me. And I got to take accounting classes. And in high school I took my first classes in high school. And so my mind was made up that that's what I was going to pursue. Again, college. I actually, you know, I did have a college experience. I drank my face off. So, like, it got a little out of hand, but but so it doesn't quite track your college experience. But like, in terms of like upbringing and deciding on accounting, that all of that rings very true and very close to my even my own experience.
Greg Kyte: [00:12:06] Just so, so moving forward to get just to kind of get some of the more meatier stuff that's just let me let me see if I can explain my understanding of how you were able to perpetrate the fraud. Just in a in a nutshell, you worked in a small department. Well, and first off, you so you worked at a company that got acquired by IMG. And when that happened, all of a sudden you just got granted the authority to approve checks up to a quarter million dollars, right? Like just sort of like this is weird, but. Okay, whatever. A quarter million dollars.
Nathan Mueller: [00:12:42] Right.
Greg Kyte: [00:12:43] Okay. And then and then since it was a small department, if you guys wanted to get stuff done when somebody was sick or on vacation or something like that, you like you you if you were to use normal internal controls, everything would just kind of shut down. So you shared passwords and logins so that if somebody happened to be gone or sick or on vacation, that you could still do your job. And then all of a sudden one day you had kind of this light bulb moment where you go, Oh, wait a second, I could go in and I could request a check as me and I could go into somebody else and approve that check through them, and then I could pick up the check. And then that's my check. And that's that's sort of how that that's the idea that form. And that was more or less how you how you committed the fraud. Is that correct?
Nathan Mueller: [00:13:24] Correct. Yeah. You make it sound so easy. Yeah. Yeah. It really wasn't that easy.
Greg Kyte: [00:13:30] Yeah, well, what was Tell me a little bit more about the D because I. Oh, sorry.
Caleb Newquist: [00:13:34] Did you, did you mention the foreign, the foreign currency. Bit like where, where oh where the stuff got buried or did you mention that.
Nathan Mueller: [00:13:43] I did not get that later. Later in the story a little bit.
Caleb Newquist: [00:13:47] Okay. Got it. Okay. Sorry. Not jumping ahead. Sorry, Greg.
Greg Kyte: [00:13:50] Yeah. He doesn't know you as well as I do.
Caleb Newquist: [00:13:53] Nathan. Let me. Right. Yeah, I'll just. I'll just. Listeners can't see it, but I'm fading into the right.
Greg Kyte: [00:14:03] Like Homer Simpson. Into the bushes. Yeah, exactly. So, yeah. So tell me a little bit about because because you touch on it in the article where you had there was something about like picking up the checks to because because usually, you know, the separation of duties is like you have, you have one person who has physical assets of physical control of the asset, you have someone else who, who does the bookkeeping and someone else who does the reconciliation. Wasn't there some part of the story where you you also had to have an excuse to go and pick up the checks that were getting processed through your your system, your fraudulent system?
Nathan Mueller: [00:14:40] Correct. Yeah. So as far as the check pickup went on, a on a normal daily basis, one of our, you know, lower level employees, she would grab the check register. So our admin system that sent the check run over every night to PeopleSoft automatically printed out some reports. And as part of that, there was a check register. So here's the checks that were sent over to PeopleSoft to be printed. She would grab that report, walk across the street to the division because the same person printed the checks for all seven divisions around many in the Minneapolis campus. And they would print the checks paper, clip them, put a Post-it note on re-insurance or a B, you know, all all the things, put them in a in a three ring binder with a log. And that said in an empty cubicle. So every morning this girl would grab the check register, walk across the street, grab reinsurance checks, initial that she took the checks, she would bring them back to our boss, the controller. He would verify that the checks that printed match, the check register. That's the checks we were expecting. And from there they were stamped out. So I was the backup for both of those people on that in that thing.
Nathan Mueller: [00:15:50] So if if that girl was not there that day, I was the one to pick up the check register, go across the street, pick up the checks, bring them to my boss. So when I was going to steal money, she had to be gone so I could be the one to pick up the checks. Or when my boss was gone, she would go pick up the checks, bring that back to me, and I would verify that the chess matched the register. So either he needed to be gone or she needed to be gone. And so, you know, early on in my fraud, it was I would only do it days that I knew that one of those two is going to be gone the next day. But then later I would just that girl actually reported to me. So I would, you know, I need money to this week. So I would go through the process, request the check, approve it as somebody else. Then I would go to her and give her the day off the next day. You know, you've been doing a great job. I'll just take tomorrow off. And she thought I was just this amazing manager. And it was right.
Greg Kyte: [00:16:43] Just one more positive.
Caleb Newquist: [00:16:44] For Best boss.
Nathan Mueller: [00:16:46] Just so I could keep my hands on the checks.
Greg Kyte: [00:16:48] Yeah. Did she give you a world's greatest boss mug at any point?
Nathan Mueller: [00:16:53] She just verbally.
Greg Kyte: [00:16:55] Just verbally.
Nathan Mueller: [00:16:57] Verbally gave me the. You're such a great boss, so.
Greg Kyte: [00:17:01] Yeah, well, and and that's. That's not uncommon at my work. The guy who hired me, I ended up he had perpetrated a fraud over a number of years before I even got there. And it was. It was a weird, weird thing not to get into that too much. But one of the really I loved him as a boss. He was a great guy to work for. He was just a nice guy. I considered him a close friend. How were your people skills as I mean, obviously you're this person who worked for you. Was there were you were you a were you kind of a star? Was it was everybody enamored with you at in your department, at IMG?
Nathan Mueller: [00:17:37] You know, early on in my career there, I worked my butt off, which allowed me to be promoted. Allow me to, you know, keep taking on more responsibility. You know, my reviews on an annual basis were top notch. And then so when I started committing the fraud, yeah, I mean, I was on some level of high producing employee there. I think people liked me even though I didn't. I've always been kind of like I like brooding, like I get into my own. I guess I can, I guess also.
Caleb Newquist: [00:18:14] Tracks also tracks. Yeah.
Nathan Mueller: [00:18:18] I would say that historically, if you came to my office to talk to me about something, it was serious because I tried to set an atmosphere where people didn't bother me. But no, I mean, I think I could be nice, I could be engaging, I could be, you know, all of those things if I needed to.
Greg Kyte: [00:18:36] But but it sounds like you you, you created career capital for yourself just by working your butt off, because it sounds like you were very motivated and very focused. Focused on you. You wanted. You wanted to make money. And so that's because of that. And employers like that. If you're motivated to make money, then and you're willing to do whatever they tell you to do to make it, you're going to be a star. So is that is that more or less correct?
Nathan Mueller: [00:19:01] I think that that's a big part of it, which is why I think, especially from my boss, I had a lot of trust, you know, I think. Yeah, yeah. Much trust in. Yeah. I was able to do. And you know, again, it was like all these things kind of fell together to make all of this possible. But I do think that my my work ethic, my, you know, results how I did things. That's why I continue to to get more responsibility and get more trust within the department, which which really helped, you know, in the stealing the money and covering it up So.
Caleb Newquist: [00:19:42] Gotcha.
Greg Kyte: [00:19:43] So, so like you like you alluded to before, there was kind of a phase one and a phase to to your fraud. There were some interesting things about phase one. So you only stole you stole less than 100,000 in phase one. And and basically you were like you were thinking, I want to get out of debt. And so so you had listened to a lot of Dave Ramsey and you're like, Dave Ramsey, you are a man of the Lord and you've inspired me to steal my company to pay to get out of debt because that's what God really wants. I know, But but that was the motivation, right?
Nathan Mueller: [00:20:21] Correct. So we were my now ex wife. We were having a baby. And that whole every part of like my story was a liar of a fraud. Like, we're going to have a baby. I thought that, you know, the best thing for our daughter is for, you know, us mom to stay home, you know, quit her amazing career. My ex-wife is she had a great job, super smart, amazing person. I basically convinced her that she should quit her job and be a stay at home mom. You know, at that point, I was like, well, okay, I, I, I worked two jobs. You know, I was working at Relative Star, and then I had G, but I was still working at that CPA firm. So I was working basically two full time jobs. Yeah, I made good money at the time. Could I support the family on one income or my two incomes? Yeah, but then, you know, the next part of the lives, I had a lot of debt and my wife didn't know about it. And so at that point I'm like, What do I do? Do I come clean to her and be like, Hey, I have this debt you didn't know about, which obviously that, you know, being honest was not my thing back then. So I wasn't about to admit that to her. Now I can't really make more money. I'm already working two jobs. So how do I come up with additional money to keep paying off this debt? So that's when the thought of the frog popped into my head, like, you know, that's when I started justifying enough that it was okay or, you know, like not wrong, just justifying it from the standpoint that could I do this, you know, could I steal money and what's it for? And I convinced myself, number one, it was my only option and which was a lie, because my whole life was about appearances.
Nathan Mueller: [00:22:01] And so I wasn't willing to, like, live on a budget. I was all about appliances, keeping up with the Joneses like. So I convinced myself, well, I, I don't have any other option but to steal, you know? And so that was a line. The other thing to convince myself was I was doing it for my family, which I wasn't. I was doing it to keep up appearances, you know? Yes, I was going to use the money to pay off debt and, you know, have my my wife say hell with my child. But it wasn't about that. It was about the you know, I'm I can support my family. My wife could quit her job and stay home. How does that make that makes me look successful, you know, in my skewed view of success back then. And so it was all it was all for the wrong reason, and it was all lying to myself about it. But that's that was that was the decision I'd made.
Caleb Newquist: [00:22:48] Can I can I just clarify one thing? Did you come to the relationship with your wife? Did you come to the marriage with the debt? Was that something that you came with or did that happen after y'all had been married?
Nathan Mueller: [00:22:59] Yeah. So like going through school, she was a year younger than me. Her family was wealthy, but she didn't have you know, when I graduated college, I had credit card debt. I had a lot more school loans than she had. And I from my childhood, even though it it doesn't make sense. Looking back, I, like, carried shame with my financial situation. And so when I finished school and I had all this debt and she finished school and she didn't, I just felt like, what? I don't like basically I don't think she'll she would be with a guy like me who has all this debt. Like I'm just not going to tell her about it and stuff. And so with our finances, since I kind of ran everything, we somewhat kept separate finances in that, you know, our dad is a bank president. She already had her bank account. She already had her credit. She already had that stuff. I had my so we had one joint account, but I paid our bills, I did our taxes, I handled our finances. And so and she just didn't care, you know? And so she she really was kind of a perfect victim for me because she trusted me. And she really she didn't care about money or material stuff at all. So. But yeah, that was stuff I brought to the relationship. Got it.
Greg Kyte: [00:24:06] Yeah. And so so the next the next beat in the story is probably my favorite part because again, correct me if I'm wrong, but it was like the last check because you kept transferring balances to your credit card and you would send checks into your credit card and it was like the last check so that you would be. So all this debt that you brought with you is completely out the door. And then at that moment, you had like a crazy scare. Tell us that part of the story, if you if you would here.
Nathan Mueller: [00:24:35] Right. So I was I was cutting the checks from ING's account to my credit card company because I thought that started because obviously I couldn't write a check to myself. I needed to send it to somebody where the payee would look normal on the system. And so I had a credit card with a financial institution that, you know, we had an insurance company that we did business with. And I thought, okay, it's just going to look like a little commission check. And so I had set that up. You know, I called the credit card company. I was like, is it okay if my employer reimburses my travel expenses by cutting checks to you directly? And they're like, we don't care who pays us as long as somebody pays us, you know? And so for me, it was like, perfect, I'm going to cut checks, send them, pay that off. So like you said, over that summer, I paid off that credit card. I transferred balances from other credit cards that paid those off. I use remember the old convenience checks you got in your statement every month? I use that to pay off my school loans. I paid off my car. I paid off all this debt that my wife didn't know about, you know, And so I get towards the end of the summer and and I have I have spreadsheets of my entire fraud. So I have all this stuff so I can use true accountants. Right. Let it go.
Greg Kyte: [00:25:42] My you're calculating your your utilization rate for your fraud.
Nathan Mueller: [00:25:47] I love my spreadsheets, but not as much as the FBI. Yeah, right. So I, I get to the end of the summer, I'd cut a check for 5500. You know, my first check was 1100 over the summer, we grew, you know, 1518 out of 2000 up to 5500. I mailed the check off, and by this time, I'm extremely paranoid. You know, I'm I didn't think it was going to work from the start. And every time I did it, I was more convinced I was going to get caught, you know? And even though it wasn't huge amounts, it's I still was like freaking out. So every time I done it, the process was the same, the timing was the same. Log in to PeopleSoft, request to check as myself. Log out loud. Right. Bank back. He was my coworker approved the check, pick it up the next day, mail it to my credit card company. Two days later, it hits my credit card. The day after that, it clears the bank. I can see the process through PeopleSoft, through my credit cards, you know, online.
Caleb Newquist: [00:26:42] So you had a down cold. Sounds like you had a down cold.
Nathan Mueller: [00:26:45] It worked. It worked the same every single time. Yeah. So this last check, I mail off day two. It doesn't show up on my credit card statement. Day three, it doesn't clear the bank a week goes by. So now I'm convinced they caught it. They know, you know, like literally waiting for I was waiting for the, you know, FBI to jump out from under my desk when I got to work every day. And so two weeks go by, nothing. And so I'm just like, you know, my daughter's doing a couple of weeks, like, I'm freaking oh, jeez. I walk in one day and I get and I laughed about this was somebody that day. Like, do people still get those, like, interoffice mail envelopes, you know, where you get stuff from, from the different departments around the country? And so I get an envelope, I open it up, there's the check. And so it turned out that I had forgot to put my account information on the check when I mailed it off. Credit card company gets the check, doesn't know what to do with it. They mail it back to the address and the check, which is accounts payable in Atlanta. Person accounts payable gets the check, looks it up, sees that I'm the requester because she knows me. She just sends me the check back.
Greg Kyte: [00:27:50] And so kind of like this this guy will know what I don't know what to do with it. This guy, I'll know what to do with it.
Nathan Mueller: [00:27:55] Yeah, this is this. This was somebody I talked to every single day. So when she looked at the thing, it was my check. She just go to Nathan's, like, sent it back to me. So at that point, I'm like, that was like my that was my one off. That was my, like, reminder from God or something like, it's time to stop this. Like, you got away with one there. And so you reminder.
Greg Kyte: [00:28:15] It was your reminder from Dave Ramsey. He was like, okay, you paid off your debt. Now let's let's wrap this up because you're done. Right? Right.
Nathan Mueller: [00:28:22] Right. No. So there was that. And there was the like the objective. I had done what I set out to do. I had paid off my was I paid off my credit cards. I paid off my car. Yeah, I paid off $83,000 in debt. Never bought one thing. Not I didn't spend the money on any. I just paid off debt. That was done. Stop stealing, Move on. So.
Greg Kyte: [00:28:45] Yeah. So you were the world's most responsible fraudster, right?
Nathan Mueller: [00:28:51] For six months?
Greg Kyte: [00:28:52] For first six months. Okay, So. Well, and an interesting thing because because this just came to mind while you were talking. If you had flipped that around and if you had logged in as a coworker to request the check and you had been the person approving the check, that would it would have blown up right there because the check would have got sent back to somebody else, not you. And they would have been like, this is not an okay check and you would have been caught that way too, right?
Nathan Mueller: [00:29:14] Yeah, that's that's actually I've never thought of that. But yeah, 100%.
Greg Kyte: [00:29:17] Because Yeah, because I think when I've thought about this fraud in the past I go it's probably kind of arbitrary and maybe sometimes Nathan logged in as and requested that sometimes maybe logged in to approved as yourself rather than as somebody else. But it sounds like you had a system where you were always the requester and you always logged in as somebody else's. The approver.
Nathan Mueller: [00:29:35] I would guess out of the 99 times I did it, there were times that I didn't do it exactly like that. I like. So here's the thing. Like we had a team of six people. I know there was people that had their their passwords on a Post-it note on their monitor. And so, of course, you know, at least one time my coworker that I use to use her password, it didn't work. And so instead of like locking up her thing because I had test, I tried twice, I just grabbed those other girls and requested it as her and approved as me. So I know that I did. You know, I'm sure a few times flip it around and requested by as somebody else would approve it as myself.
Greg Kyte: [00:30:11] But yeah.
Nathan Mueller: [00:30:12] Yeah. On that case that's a great point that I never thought of that that could have that could have stopped it all right there.
Greg Kyte: [00:30:19] And it's funny because we all laugh about people having just their passwords on the Post-it note on their computer, but like I, I, I scorned your coworker, and then immediately I was like, Oh, I absolutely have some passwords on Post-it notes on my computer, too. So it's I mean, it's it's not like too far fetched. So so here's, here's the part so part B of your fraud. Face to face to to what? Because because clearly your motivation was I want to get out of debt and then like, what was your motivation for phase two? Was it just like what you were talking about in terms of growing up and just like you because you were comfortable? You're I mean, I think if I if all of my commercial debt was paid off, I've got my mortgage, but I've got a decent job of making some money, then I'm okay. Yeah. So what? Especially thinking you probably could have just shut it down and got off scot free. But you decided to to go back in and go back in. Hard for phase two. What was what was that motivation?
Nathan Mueller: [00:31:22] So and here's the thing I get from other people, like we were with you on the first part of owning one phase two, that's when you lost us, you know, because you could solve people could understand, Hey, I'm trying to get out of debt, take care of the family. But phase two.
Greg Kyte: [00:31:37] It seems noble. That stuff all seems kind of noble.
Nathan Mueller: [00:31:40] So with phase two and again, I remember this and again I have I have the business set up for the business that I set up, so I know the dates of all this stuff. So in March of 2004, you know, it's been six months since what I call the scare. So the scare is is wearing off, you know, the the miserable life. I was living over that 83 grand six months prior, and I kind of forgot about it. You know, things were things were good. Now, my little girl is six months old. You know, work's going well financially. I'm in a good place. So I'm sitting at my desk. And I was thinking, you know, I did all that work to steal that money, and I didn't even do anything fun with it. And so, like, literally, that was my thought, like just off the rails, Insane, you know, self thought. So at that point, I was like, you know, how could I do this? And, and, you know, really have some fun with it. Like, you know, really, really ramped this up and, and, you know, start buying some stuff. And it wasn't from the standpoint like, okay, I want a new car. I want to watch I want to this there was I had nothing in my mind about what I would buy if I had this money. I just thought, you know, basically, let's go. And so I once again, I committed to it just like the first time. Once I committed to it in my mind, I was going to do it, you know, even even though I could sit there all day long and think, this is a horrible idea, like this is this is not a good idea.
Nathan Mueller: [00:32:58] This is not going to work. You're going to get caught. All these negative things. Once I committed, I was like, I'm in like. And so the only thing up in the air right now is how am I going to do it, you know? And so at that point, I was like with with the credit card thing, what I did like about it was mailing those checks off. I lost control over the process. And so I wanted to commit my fraud in a way that I had total to. All the process. So I need to be able to get those checks and put them in a bank account and have full access to everything. And so that's what I thought. To me, it's some basic this is like embezzlement at 101. Well, I'm going to set up a company with the same name as one of our brokers. And I'm going to, you know, I'm going to cut checks and it looks like it's to a broker, but it's right into my account. So I went through that process of, you know, I got a federal ID number, I filed a name with the secretary of state. I had a P.O. Box. I had a business bank account at Wells Fargo. I had a business on paper solely to commit fraud, which, again, you know, the the biggest thing that the FBI, the U.S. attorney can't believe is that I filed a legit tax return on that business and reported all my stolen money. So, yeah, the joke there is I didn't want to lose my license over this. So, you know.
Greg Kyte: [00:34:14] But but also, I mean, that's I mean, that's someone who's financially savvy, who's a professional, you know, in accounting that you're going to go, Yeah, if I've got a business, I want everything to look legit and part of part of getting caught, it's going to be, you know, we've all watched Untouchables, so we all know that the IRS, how bad guys go to jail.
Nathan Mueller: [00:34:35] Yeah. You know, that's the other here.
Greg Kyte: [00:34:37] Yeah. So So yeah so that all that all makes sense to me what we're so what were some of the. Well, I guess. Yeah. You must have been spending money just hand over fist then once it started hitting your account.
Nathan Mueller: [00:34:50] Yeah. So it started small and unnoticeable. And I recognized I had rules early on that I had to stop following, you know? But like, when I first started stealing money, the first big check I took there was 27,000. I was a trial, you know, raise a bunch of suspicion. $27,000 is a ton of money to me at that point. Right. But at that time, I'd go to Best Buy every week, buy new release CD's, DVDs about a TV. Those are like things that are going to Oh, you must be stealing about four DVDs this week. You know, I started it. I got into watches and so I bought my first lake $800 watch. And late as Duffy failed, I spent more money and so, like, I just would go to the grocery store and not worry about when I spent that week or, you know, I might go buy a couple new shirts. And it just was it was all small stuff that wasn't noticeable. The first vehicle that I wrote a check for, I had the same vehicle. My lease ran out, so I got the same vehicle again.
Nathan Mueller: [00:35:48] I just wrote a check for it. So I'm driving the seat vehicle. That doesn't raise any suspicion, you know? Right and right. It got to the point where I was like, I have some lies in there. I had, as I was starting to spend a little more money, noticeable money, but not like, well, that's crazy. One of the things people knew, everybody knew I worked two jobs. Nobody knew how much money I made. My wife didn't even know how much money I made. She didn't care, you know? But everybody knew that the CPA that I worked for nights and weekends, they knew that I keep He wanted me to come back full time and buy him out in retirement. They knew everybody knew that he wanted me back. And so I was like, Yeah, he's trying to entice me back. So he's giving me more work, more clients, more money. And so, you know, I'm making, you know, two or three grand more than I was. And and that explained some of that spending. And then it got to the point, you know, but that.
Greg Kyte: [00:36:37] Wasn't really happening. You were just that was just your that was your lie to cover up your spending or was he really doing that?
Nathan Mueller: [00:36:43] No, he wasn't doing that. Okay. I was still I was still working there.
Greg Kyte: [00:36:46] Yeah, but not this extra stuff in this. You know.
Nathan Mueller: [00:36:49] There was there wasn't, there was no extra. So okay, once we got to the point where I wanted to buy something that didn't make sense, it would have been like, This doesn't make sense from my wife and my family, friends, coworkers. It was a motorcycle, you know, it was a $35,000 motorcycle. I was like, how am I going to do this? How can I explain this money? And so that's when I kicked off the the gambling thing. And I had never really been a gambler before, but I knew from doing taxes that if you win a jackpot over 1200 dollars, you get a W-2 you get a tax form that says you want X amount of dollars. So I don't care if I win money or lose money. If I have a tax form that says I won that amount of money I can spend on the money is the way I looked at it. So. Right. You know, I tested my hypothesis like I, I took like probably 40,000 to a casino. I played high dollar video poker until I won 30 grand. I went home and told my wife, Hey, I just happened to win 30 grand today. I'm going to buy this motorcycle. And I told everybody that. Everybody, like the first time, everybody was like, Oh, that's a great story. Everybody's really happy for you that you won 30 grand, you know? Right. But then when I need a I need 55 grand for a car I want to buy, and then I need, you know, every time I do it, the third time you go to the casino and come home with $70,000 in there, people are like, I've been to a casino before. I'm pretty sure they don't just, like, hand out money like this. And so it was he was early on in that that people were starting to really question. You know, I had it down. I had never I never let people gamble with me and never let people see stuff. I would just show up. With fistfuls of W-2s and and but tons of money. And so that was.
Greg Kyte: [00:38:31] Because those w the because it's the W-2 G That's the gambling one. Right. Right. And and they all they care about is how much you won, not how much you, you blew to get. So if you.
Nathan Mueller: [00:38:42] Want, it's not some a net win or loss. It's a what.
Greg Kyte: [00:38:45] Okay yeah and I didn't know that about those so that's that's very interesting and that and again very yeah obviously this was a very well thought through process to cover your tracks and to and even like from a money laundering kind of position you were you brought it out dirty but you took it, you took it out of your bank account. Pretty clean right. And justifiable. So just sort of like going back to what you were talking about, like right at the beginning, because you said like when you're in high school, you were popular, you were a good athlete. Like everything was kind of going your way, but you were still just not a happy dude, were you when you were when you were rolling in it with this stuff, with the money getting get by in the stuff? You had this you didn't have to worry about. You didn't buy hamburger on on sale, you bought steak and you know, damn the coupons, that kind of thing. What were you happy during that time? Did it did it You know, my my assumption is still. No. But also, I got to think maybe. Yeah, you were I mean, an honest reflection on that. Was that a happy time for you?
Nathan Mueller: [00:39:55] It was absolutely miserable, really. It was miserable from the standpoint that I just looked at myself as more of a fraud. You know, it's really it's really easy to be a big shot and spend somebody else's money. I wasn't earning the money. It nothing like it felt cool at times to be able to like do things that other people probably would never do or take my friends on a trip or do something. There was like some level of satisfaction in that. But the bottom line was the the the misery of knowing that I was just a loser stealing the money. The bottom line of always knowing I was going to get caught and what he was going to do to me and tear apart my family and the things I was going to do and everybody around me was miserable. And you could see it in me in over that time period. How how much I changed, how how dark I got, how withdrawn I was, how horrible I was to other people because I hated myself. You know, I was just I was a miserable person for every standpoint. I treated people like, like garbage. I was a huge jerk to everybody because I was just so disgusted by myself. And I just lashed out and others because of that. So it was just it was a horrible, miserable time. And it's got worse and worse and worse, you know, like every day.
Caleb Newquist: [00:41:18] So I want to ask you I just want to ask you about something you said. So even during that time, you knew where this was going to end up. Like you knew this ended with the fraud collapsing and the and whatever the consequences of that would be. It's somewhere in your mind. You knew that.
Nathan Mueller: [00:41:38] Roy There was times where, you know, like I said, I had rules early on where I would only steal as much as I could, you know, keep the books even, which, you know, we'll we'll hit on that before the stage and and how I got that stuff past auditors and how I made it, you know, go away. You know, if I would have quit after $1,000,000, I probably would have got away with it kind of thing. There was times I was like, you know, she's like, quit, Should I be done with this? The whole thing was even though it was miserable, it was so addicting. Like the money, the the fraud was just an absolute rush every time to do it. You know, there are so many pieces. But I was never I was never a true denial about what the end game was. And that got more and more clear to me as time went on. You know, when I got to the point where I didn't want to do it anymore, my life was horrible and I could not function anymore. There was no way out of it. There's no way out of this without me going to prison, you know? And that was the when I got to the point where I stopped stealing, it was like, I'm just going to stop and wait. Somebody is going to figure it out at some point. I never had I never had the the courage at any point to even think about turning myself in. But I knew that the writing was on the wall from early on and that that got more and more apparent to me throughout the whole time.
Greg Kyte: [00:42:57] Right. And I could see that almost like becoming a like a vicious circle to where if you're going, I know I'm getting I mean, if I stopped right now, eventually I'm going to somebody's going to figure this out. I'm going to get caught. So why not keep doing it? Why not? Why not ride this till it has to end instead of ending it myself? If I'm going to get caught one way or the other. Is that was that part of your mindset at all?
Nathan Mueller: [00:43:18] There was definitely like a cycle in that everything I did made me feel horrible and so I did something worse to cover that Hormel's up, which made me feel more horrible. So, you know, I'm going to steal this today, I'm going to buy this, I'm going to do this, treat somebody like trash. I'm going to do something horrible to cover up the last one. And it every it just got this downward spiral of just horribleness. And it just it got to the point where there was no way out for me, you know, There was just yeah, there there was I just felt like there was there was no way out. And I just had to, like, step back and wait for it to happen.
Greg Kyte: [00:43:56] Jeez. Hey, Caleb, didn't you have some sort of question about a foreign currency exchange or something like that that you wanted to ask?
Caleb Newquist: [00:44:03] Well, it kind of doesn't seem that important now, but. Right.
Greg Kyte: [00:44:08] Well, lay it on us, because I think this is, again, one of the unexpected twists, because our audience, we have we have a lot of people who who just listen casually. We've got a lot of people who listen to our podcasts who are professional CPAs. I was very I thought it was very interesting and very creative. The way that you buried the your fraud in the books at IMG, which was through foreign currency, which part of why that seems so novel is that I think for the vast majority of people, we never you can go your whole career without having to audit or if you're if you're in public, you never audit a company that does foreign currency exchanges or if you're in a company, if you work in industry, you don't your company just does domestic business. So but you but, but that's where you where you found a convenient place to keep this out of sight from, like you said, from the auditors. Can you tell us a little bit more about the like the nuts and bolts of that?
Nathan Mueller: [00:45:05] Yeah. So with phase two. Phase one. All I did was when I would request a check, I would credit cash, debit, write off, like literally. Oh, okay. I had huge we could we could write off large amounts. So to write off 83 grand over a summer was nothing. But once a month started raising up, I ran into the thing where I need to put it somewhere and then I need to figure out how to get rid of it, you know? And so as there's this growing what I call my growing fraudulent balance in this ledger account that I reconcile on a monthly basis, I need to get this reconciliation with millions of dollars of fraud in the balance, passed my boss on a monthly basis, past auditors, probably twice a year, internal and external Sarbanes-Oxley control testing people going on. At that time, state insurance examiners was a lot of people digging into this stuff. And so the first thing I identified and again, this is because I spent six years reconciling the account where I was going to stick this. I knew how my boss is going to look at it. I knew how auditors were going to look at it. I knew, you know, I knew how to manipulate a 22 year old fresh auditor into, you know, confusion and letting me convince them what they should put in their work papers.
Greg Kyte: [00:46:22] Wait, how how do you do that? You can't just you can't just drop this. Not tell us how you did it. That's this is this is the common Is it?
Caleb Newquist: [00:46:29] This is a common theme in a lot of these stories. It's like, oh, young auditors that you kind of just write so down a very strange and impossible path.
Nathan Mueller: [00:46:39] Quickly, The the account that I was going to put this in was we had a we had a Canadian subsidiary and so single standing office in Canada where everything happened in Canada because of regulatory purposes. We had an office, we had workers there. You know, the investments backing the reserves were up there. They collected all the premium up there, they paid all the claims and commissions up there, everything happened there. And that had to filter down into PeopleSoft in the United States. And so we call this the Canadian package. So basically on a monthly basis, they had to get me their three pieces of information. They had their contract related stuff, they had access to our admin system. So they processed all of their stuff on our Advent system that flowed straight to PeopleSoft. They had their, you know, the general expense items, their their expense stuff from their office. What I did was I took, you know, their trial bills on a monthly basis, figured out their expenses, and I made an entry to PeopleSoft on a monthly basis for their expenses. The third piece was the investment income. So let's say we had $200 Million up there in investments back in the reserves. All that money was in T-bills and bonds in 10 million Canadian dollar increments. So on a monthly basis, we're receiving interest payments and buying and selling T-bills and bonds. So all of that came through me. So I would verify the contract related stuff in admin. I made the entries for the the general expense items. The investment activity all came to me. I would put together an exhibit with the Canadian dollar entries for everything.
Nathan Mueller: [00:48:12] I would translate it to U.S. dollars for this exhibit to investment accounting in Atlanta. They would make the entry. So those are the three pieces. In addition to that, I had to reconcile their bank account. So on PeopleSoft, we had one ledger account, Canadian bank, that that was actually made up of five actual bank accounts in Canada, 3 CAD and two in US dollars. So I was reconciling five accounts and two currencies in the one ledger account in there. So it was a mess. You know, there's always four of these difference. There's just a ton of different types of activity there going on and I had to reconcile it. So it's a mess. I was the only person who had worked on this the whole six years. At that point I had been there. Nobody really knew all the pieces, how it all fit together, including my boss. So I was like, perfect spot to put this, you know, like, I'm just going to I'm going to, you know, when I steal money, credit, cash, debit this account. And so I've got this growing debit balance in this ledger account, that, number one, I need to get past my boss and auditors. So that part of it was, again, from doing this for years, I knew that when on off quarter end months, my boss was going to he was going to verify my registration, my reconciliation, and he was going to verify the ledger bells off a query that I gave him because he didn't know how to query stuff. So there you.
Greg Kyte: [00:49:32] Go.
Nathan Mueller: [00:49:33] I would query the balance of the account. Let's say it's $8 Million, but 3 million of that 8 million is my fraud. I would query it, I could download it into Excel and I would just subtract off 3 million and print it out and he would tie to an incorrect balance just super base just yet, but on off quarter on quarter and months like year end auditors and my boss, they would tie my reconciliation back to an actual trial balance or balance sheet. So I couldn't fake the balance, so I had to find a fake reconciling item. So same concept when investment accounting made their injury every quarter for an investment activity they made. One entry to PeopleSoft for all the investment activity across IAG Americas. So there's one entry that was thousands of lines long representing billions of dollars in activity. I was query that entry. I need to find a $3 Million entry that I need to make it look like they hit our books upon exit. I query it, I find a $3 Million entry. I bring this query into Excel. The $3 Million entry that I need is a fake outstanding item. I change the business unit in the account, make it look like they hit our accounting error and I put it on the reconciliation investment. Accounting hit our accounting error will correct next month.
Nathan Mueller: [00:50:44] And so the reason it worked was because that's how we moved money around within within and and PeopleSoft was instead of, you know, you get my money instead of you wiring me the money, you would just do a cash transfer venture over PeopleSoft. You know, your business was to my business you did PeopleSoft handles that do to do from in the middle you stick it where and people made those entries all the time and they made them incorrectly. So our reconciliations every month had cash transfer entries that were done incorrectly, super common. So I just made it look like investment accounting. Maytag Our account should have been security life of Denver. My thought at the time was, is internal audit or external auditors, are they going to say, Well, our team in Denver can verify that they have an outstanding item for 3 million because they should have got that entry and you got it. They never did that. So I just speak an entry. And again, I was always like, how does nobody find this? Because when I checked my people's reconciliations, the first thing I do is run the queries. Yeah, because we independently verified my queries and they allowed me to use queries downloaded into Excel that I could just manipulate. So super basic stuff.
Greg Kyte: [00:51:52] Right. Well, and if I was in Denver, I would have been like I would have been like, the hell is this $3 million charge? Because. Yeah, because you think somebody reconciling that side too, and maybe eventually, I guess people just throw up their hands and go, who knows what the hell this is? We like you said, it's billions and billions of dollars. This is dust on the dust on the scales. Forget about it. Write it off and move on.
Nathan Mueller: [00:52:14] All right. So. So that was the the the first part of it. How do I get it past them? I just could fake stuff and, you know, I could make a query, say whatever I wanted because they would accept it in Excel. And they never nobody ever asked me to run a query in front of them. Nobody could run the query themselves. So it was just like no independent verification of my queries. The second part was, well, how do I make that go away? You know, I can't write it off now, I can't expense it. How am I going to get rid of eight and a half million dollars, you know, like and so that's where I thought just in general I was like, I don't want to I don't want to make an entry just for my frog. You know, like, the only explanation for this entry is to get rid of fraud. I wanted to manipulate something that I was already doing to chisel away at that balance. And so back to the the the Canadian package, the investment activity. So on a monthly basis, you know, there might be $50 million of activity because they might buy and sell, you know, five different 10 million Canadian dollar T-bills are bonds. So the amount of activity investment wise could be significant even if the net was small. So I was like, okay, here's what I need to do.
Nathan Mueller: [00:53:27] I list out my activity. So buy $10 million bill, sell, buy, sell, whatever it is. So now I have all my Canadian dollar amounts for my investment activity for the month. I was supposed to use the average monthly exchange rate of Canadian dollars to US dollars to translate that activity to US dollars to put in. So now that I have that in there, it's it's 0.92. Okay, well, what if I manipulate it now? I know my entries are supposed to translate at 0.92. Well, what if all the debits I translate the 0.91 and all the credits that translate 2.93. And so I credit my account for more than it should be credited for. And I debited for less than it should be debited for over time. It's going to eat away at that. You know what? Every every entry that's a credits to every debit some to low over time that would eat away at that balance like silently eat away at that balance. And so the first time I did it like you look at it, I know that these are all 10 million CAD. So this column should all be 9.2 million USD. But this one's on 9.3 million million credits in $9.1 million debits. So when I look at the the exhibit, I'm like, this does not look right.
Nathan Mueller: [00:54:40] So I'm taking a chance at sending this to someone to actually enter, you know, the girl who did that stuff. I had known her for years. I assumed if she spotted it and asked me, I could just say, well, I screwed up, forgot to update the rates with everything I did. I was thought the first time I could probably get away with it being a screw up later, I'm screwed. But so, you know, the first time I did it, my side did to her. She made the entries. The next thing was. You know, I showed the exhibit with the 0.92 translation to my boss. Then I had to show him next month that those entries all went at, you know, 0.92. Translation 9.2 million. They didn't. All the credits were 9.3 and all the devils were 9.1. So I would query it downloaded to Excel and type in what I wanted it to say again with no reason. So. So over a four year period every single month, I every debit that hit that account for investment activity was less than it should be in Every credit was more than it should be. And so I gave away about $5 million that that balanced over that four year period. So there was about $3 million of that balance left in there when I got busted.
Greg Kyte: [00:55:50] So so actually, first off, fun fact, there is an actor that I follow on Pornhub called the Canadian package. So that's just a weird coincidence. But also just just curious. I mean, the next point in the story is how did you get caught? Because I yeah, because it was it was not internal audit. It was not external audit. It wasn't, you know, the insurance auditors, it wasn't any of those people tell the tell the folks what happened.
Nathan Mueller: [00:56:21] So obviously, like I had I had thoughts all along who's going to catch me, you know, And initially I thought with all the audits, internal, external, like all the people, they throw us up and every single person that audited our books. Went through the Canadian package, which quickly what I did to the auditors was I would lay all this paperwork out like you guys are old enough to remember, like the Green Line matrix paper. I'd like the big green line dot matrix paper. I had all these different exhibits and I would lay everything out and when I did my reconciliation, I had every, every different colored highlighter meant something different. So I would take this 23 year old kid and I would start doing like, this goes to this and this, this. And I would just talk them in circles until they just were shy. That had no idea what I was talking about. And from going through this, I knew that they had the same work papers every year. They had the same stuff every year, and they're like, So what should we put in our work papers? And I would tell them what to put. They would put it in and they would move on to the next thing. So it was just preying on the confidence of a young auditor. That's not going to say, I don't know what you're talking about.
Caleb Newquist: [00:57:23] I don't know what's.
Nathan Mueller: [00:57:25] I don't understand. Right. You know, I need to go and ask my senior. I need to, like always just praying on that. They don't want to look stupid, so they're not going to bring it up and they're just going to tolerate it and move on. So.
Greg Kyte: [00:57:36] Right. Or ultimately they've got all this pressure to be like, don't. We've got so many billable hours budgeted in this project, you better damn sure make sure you're not over. And if you're talking about all this complicated stuff, they go, okay, I'm just going to take his word on this because I don't want to get the beat down from my from my manager about going over ours too. So, yeah. Brilliant. So, so. So that's how you manipulated the auditors.
Nathan Mueller: [00:58:00] So back to how I got caught. So first it was auditors. They never caught anything. The next thing I thought the IRS might come digging because of my extreme income. Gross Over a four year period. Yeah. Yeah. So that money was all going on my taxes in addition. So on my actual taxes, I had my normal W-2 income. I had a schedule C with millions of dollars. And then I also had my gambling income, which was washed by gambling losses. And so there's a lot of stuff happening on my taxes. So I thought going from, you know, 150 grand to a million to 2 million to 4 million might raise red flags enough to get audited. So they did not come knocking until after I got busted. So then I was like, internally, who's going to catch me? And I already mentioned I didn't think my boss would find it just based on knowing his limitations within our systems and stuff. So I was like, the person I think is going to catch me is my coworker, whose password I'm using for many reasons. You know, she's the smartest person there. She knows everything I know and some she's the one who trained me in.
Nathan Mueller: [00:59:10] She has all the access that I have and I'm using her, her user ID to commit the fraud. And so I thought, if anybody is going to catch me, it's going to be her. But she didn't really have any reason to like, look at anything until in August of 2007. So I'd stop stealing in like June or July. And I was just in less like waiting period, you know, like someone is going to find it. So we get an email from accounts payable one day in August, and the email is to my boss, my coworker and me, and the email says, If you guys want to keep your signing authority of 250,000 on checks, you need to have this paperwork filled out, approved and sent back to us. And so instantly my thought was this is it. You know, now my boss and coworker know that we have this signing authority that I've been abusing. This is going to be the thing that gets me caught. And even though I wanted it to be over, I was scared to death about what being caught meant. And so at that point, as soon as I read that email, I heard my boss walk out in the hallway and my coworker walk out there.
Nathan Mueller: [01:00:10] So when I walk out there and our boss says, Did you guys know you had signing authority checks? And I said, No, I didn't know that. You know, he's like, Would you guys need that? And I said, no. And so he went right back into his office, emailed accounts payable and said, Revoke that authority. They shouldn't have it. But I knew that that wasn't the end of it. And so basically what happened with my coworker is she ran a query to see if her user ID was associated with any checked payments. And what she found was that in 2007 she had approved $1,000,000 in checks. And so I'm sure that was shocking to her that she had approved $1,000,000 in checks that year. A couple of weeks later, my boss comes into my office on, you know, 2:00 in a Friday afternoon, and he hands me this query and he's like, can you show me the backup for these checks? And I look at the query and it pops out to me that that's $1,000,000 of checks I stole on that year. And he wants the backup. And so that day it turned out that the.
Greg Kyte: [01:01:04] Well, hold on. Was that was that just a bullshit question? Was was that really him just saying I caught you stealing or was it, was that at the time?
Nathan Mueller: [01:01:13] At the time I thought, this is how he's confronting me. He's just like messing with you right now, you know, like I assumed he knew and that this was his way of confronting me and making me sweat the reality.
Greg Kyte: [01:01:26] We just wanted vouchers and invoices.
Nathan Mueller: [01:01:28] Yeah, he really he didn't know at that point. You know, I've talked to people, their sense that they didn't suspect. Me until like later. So it turned out that the girl that answered that stuff that would have had that back up had it actually existed. She happened to be out that day. And so I just talked my way out of the office like, sorry, I don't know where she keeps it. We can't find it. But he was really pushing me that day. It wasn't like just a casual, Oh, she's gone. Okay. It was. We're digging through her desk. We're looking here, we're looking there. And, you know, I knew right where that stuff was and, you know, the legit stuff. I knew where that was, but I wasn't going to show it to him because obviously there was no backup for these checks. So. Yeah, yeah, yeah. At that point I knew, like, it's over. I went home that Friday night. I was like, It's over. Like I, I researched lawyers. I got a lawyer on the phone that night. I went into work. The next morning, I, I created fake check requests for all of those. That million dollars in checks. Everything looked legit. You know, I copied I copied signatures. I had. I originally I set up my my fake company with the same name as this insurance broker we used in Bermuda. And the reason I did that is because they would send in money sometimes and not they couldn't identify what it was for. So if we couldn't identify it, it goes into suspense.
Nathan Mueller: [01:02:48] It causes a reconciling, it's a pain in the butt. So sometimes we just send the money back. So I made it look like I was refunding money that we couldn't identify. And so I'm just sending it. It was brokered, but I was sending it to myself. So, yeah, I faked all these things. I was like shredding documentation. I was trying to just cover my tracks any way I could. I went and met with my lawyer that day. He's like, You need to go on a monday morning and, you know, to mount a defense, we need to know what they know. So I went in Monday morning when my boss got in, I went in there. I had a whole notebook full of fake documentation. I explained my you know, these payments were all refunds for for premium we couldn't identify. So we sent it all back. And he was like, Oh, that makes sense, you know, like, okay. And I was like, Did I just get away with this? Right? And so at that point he was like, I just need to go show this to Mike. Mike was our CFO. Mike was my boss's boss, and Mike was the person whose signature I faked and all my fake documentation. So when he's like, I've got to go show this to Mike. He walked upstairs with this notebook full of fake documentation. I ran to my office, grabbed my stuff, ran up to my car, spill out of the parking lot. And so, yeah, that's what I say my career was.
Greg Kyte: [01:04:00] I'll just I'll just wait here while you go talk with Mike at your head. No. Yeah.
Nathan Mueller: [01:04:05] That was like when you squealed out of the parking lot. That's when they thought maybe you were the one to look at. So I tipped him off. But it wasn't. Once you knew what to look for, it was really easy to find, you know, like, I had a query me to just pull my fraudulent stolen tags. So.
Greg Kyte: [01:04:22] So. So all this unfolds, you end up the f b I get involved. I'm sure you go to court, you get you were sentenced to was it 97 months in jail and how much and but you only spent like about two thirds of that because you got out early for good behavior.
Nathan Mueller: [01:04:42] So in the federal system, you do 85% of your time. You're given your good time on the first day. So out of 97 months, I had 380 days of good time on that. So you can't earn more good time, but you can lose your good time. So I ended up doing five and a half years in prison. And so there's the the 380 days of good time. Then there's something called our DAP Residential drug abuse program in the federal system where if if you don't have to prove you're an addict, you just have to prove you drank or did drugs, you know, before you got busted. So I'm qualified for that. So if you take that 40 week drug program, you qualify for up to a year off, you qualify exactly what happens to a year off. So I got a year off for that program. And then you do your last six months on home confinement. So out of my eight years, I got a year off a good time, a year off for the drug program. And then the last six months you are home confinement. So you're still a federal inmate. You're just you can work, you can, you know, start to rebuild your family. You're just monitored on a daily basis at home or wherever you are. So right. Five and a half years in prison was plenty. You know, when I went to prison and my kids were five and one, and when I came home, they were 11 and seven. So yeah.
Greg Kyte: [01:06:09] And and five and a half years, that's that's just barely enough time to write one article for the Journal of Accountancy.
Nathan Mueller: [01:06:14] I know I write as well. So I mean, it took me until my last month there to get that done too. Yeah.
Caleb Newquist: [01:06:20] Yeah. I'm Nathan. I'm curious about like what was, what was your personal experience like? I mean, how did you spend your days other than writing the j of a article? I mean, I know prison. Prison obviously changes people. How did it change you?
Nathan Mueller: [01:06:34] Right. So, like it's a prison camp, it's minimum security. So it was it was not white collar prison the way I thought it'd be. You know, I was in Duluth, Minnesota. It's an old Air Force base. It's like a 100 acre compound. When I was there, it was between 901,000 people. 85% are low level drug crimes. So it's all like drug drug dealers and gang bangers from, you know, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit. It's not a bunch of accountants. So but it's it's basically a small community and it's managed by prison staff, but the inmates are the people doing the work. So you've got to find a job. You have a 40 hour a week job. They're like anything else. And so I got a job in education as an education clerk. So we had an office, I had a desk. I went to work every day. You know, our office was open from 730 in the morning until nine at night, you know, So if you weren't at chow or at a time back for 4:00, we could be at work or working out. So my daily was get up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat lunch, work, work out. I lost £75 my first five months in prison and I stayed in tip top shape the whole time there. So, you know, I probably worked out an hour to 2 hours a day. Every single day. You just get a you get in a rhythm. Here's what I do every single day, and you don't think about what day it is or what year it is. You just you get a routine and you follow that routine. And so weekends it slows down because you have you don't have to work to go to.
Nathan Mueller: [01:07:58] You know, you I had a lot of visits. I had a lot of support from the outside world. So the whole time, like for me, I was I got there the first day, somebody basically said, you know, you either you know, you're going to die or it's time to fix yourself. You know, you have all these years of prison. This is your opportunity to become the person you want to be like, work on yourself, you know? And so I had somebody that held me accountable to get in shape physically, mentally. I just started reading, reading about happiness and reading about positive attitude and all these things and positive psychology. And I just kind of evolved there. I was part of a speaking program where we went out and spoke to college kids and business people and all these different areas. And so I taught classes in prison. I did a lot of stuff I had never done before. I gained new skills in public speaking and teaching and writing. And and so by the time I got out, I was a different person. You know, everybody recognized that I was in no way the person that had gone in there who was. Yeah, you know, I just given up. You know, I thought my life was over in every way. I learned that my life was just beginning, and a lot of people encouraged me and gave me opportunities a long way to to be where I am and who I am now. So, yeah, I'm very grateful for for what it all did for me, you know?
Greg Kyte: [01:09:17] Yeah. So, Nathan, how much I assume I don't I don't remember reading this, but were you court ordered to, to like, pay restitution for, for your crime.
Nathan Mueller: [01:09:27] Yeah. So my career was easy in that when I investigated, they came to us and said, you know, we think you stole 1,455,178.50 $0.05. Okay? And I agreed, you know, I kept I have a log of every check. I know exactly what I stole at the time as I was committing the fraud. I didn't want to know. So I never I never looked at the Sun column. I kept it off the screen. But we we agreed on the loss of Mel from the start, which makes things easy. That's the exact number that my criminal restitution was. So you pay restitution while you're incarcerated, while you're on probation and then probation last 20 years from the time you are out of prison. So I think I have like 13 or 13 ish more years. And so works is I get a bill in the mail every month just like any other bill. They monitor, they track you know, they track my payments every month. And so how they determine the amount is they just come in and audit my finances whenever they want to. And so, you know, it's a full financial disclosure. They get all of my financial information, you know, income, assets, expenses, liabilities, everything. And then I think it's I think there's an iris chart of acceptable expenses based on income levels. And then they set my M.O. based on that.
Greg Kyte: [01:10:51] So now when they when they do that audit, do they rely on your queries that you pull or did they do those queries themselves?
Nathan Mueller: [01:11:00] They actually they, they asked for a third party verification for some reason.
Greg Kyte: [01:11:05] Good, good. All right. That seems confident. Nice.
Nathan Mueller: [01:11:08] Obviously, I wish I had $1,000,000 to pay it back. I mean, I still owe seven and a half million dollars. But the way the process works, they're not trying to crush anybody. They're not trying to put me, you know, out of commission. They want me to make an honest effort to pay what's reasonable for me and my situation. You know, child support comes first, like they make sure that I'm handling all my responsibilities. And so there's a lot of accountable. Are you there? Yeah. And it's a reasonably it's a reasonable alarm, so I'll catch you.
Greg Kyte: [01:11:39] So just just to clarify that, when you said so, restitution happens during your probation period. Probation is 20 years after you get out of the slammer, then is it basically whatever you can reasonably pay of that 8.5 ish million dollars in 20 years, that's your restitution here. So that doesn't hang over your head for the rest of your life and you're.
Nathan Mueller: [01:11:59] Not, you know, so I've already been given my completion date of restitution when it's done. So basically, at that point, the judge writes it off after 20 years. Okay. So got you.
Greg Kyte: [01:12:13] Have you have you thought about taking money and going to Las Vegas and gambling to try to pay your 8.9? Do you play Powerball constantly?
Nathan Mueller: [01:12:23] I mean, I do play the Powerball. You know, I became addicted to gambling when I was committing my fraud. And my old fraud turned from using gambling to, like, explain my money to I was just stealing the gamble. And so, you know, it's the one holdover from my fraud where I don't gamble. I don't go to casinos. I don't I don't mess with that stuff. But, you know, the reality is I have great data on my gambling. And I know that out of the eight, two half million dollars I stole, I lost 6.2 million of it gambling. So.
Greg Kyte: [01:12:54] Jeez, holy shit, that's insane. But I also. Yeah.
Nathan Mueller: [01:12:59] My W2 winnings over those years, you know, I had like 170,000 of winnings in 2004, three, 80 and 2005, 870 and 2006 and like 1.3 million in 2007. So I was gambling a ton, you know, but I was losing.
Greg Kyte: [01:13:16] Yeah. And again, it seems like it's just if I was like I can't not gamble because this is how I justify, right. This is how I cover my tracks. Right. So right, so yeah, so interesting. So nowadays is your job speak. Just speaking on fraud. What is your day job now? Are you a full time speaker? Presenter talking about fraud and ethics?
Nathan Mueller: [01:13:39] Oh, I'm going to come again. You're okay. Not not, not again. Not your standard situation of a guy I was in prison with started a very successful business at a time when they were growing exponentially. They couldn't afford the accountant they needed, but they could afford me. So, you know, we both took advantage of the situation and that they know how much experience and ability I have and they know I could get a job somewhere else. So they gave me a chance, you know, to get back in the game. And so it's it's been an amazing opportunity for me to grow, to continue to do something. I love to be a part of something, you know, super exciting. Obviously, we're very we're very deliberate how we do things and setting up controls and very transparent in our communication. There's no like beating around the bush, like, I can't do this or I can't see this. You know, we don't need to whisper about it in the corner. We can all just say, because of your past, you can't do this, you know? And so, yeah.
Caleb Newquist: [01:14:46] Yeah.
Nathan Mueller: [01:14:46] Yeah. I've feel a lot of different stuff here. I've been here for two years now. I'm doing I'm mostly on a tax roll now, like a corporate tax roll. So. Okay. But I've got to do a ton of stuff here. I got to use a lot of my experience. I do have I have experience public and private. I've experienced big and small. And so I've kind of seen everything and I've been able to to use that here. And just one more thing. I feel extremely lucky about his being given this chance. So I still do some speaking. I don't like actively or actively market myself anymore. Look for speaking. If it pops up, I do it. My my employer. Employer is very supportive of my speaking opportunities and and the ability to keep doing stuff. So I don't know. It's kind of best of both worlds. I get to keep doing this more. If I get to keep speaking, I get to be myself and be, you know, open and honest about every part of my life.
Greg Kyte: [01:15:45] Cool. So one last question. Looking back on the fraud that you committed, because obviously you've had tons of time to to ponder it, if have you been able to identify something that AIG. No, I Angie, I did it again. Could you have you been able to identify something that I, Angie, could have done that would have just prevented your fraud? Because because again, you even said it, you're kind of like you found yourself in this position. It was your daily position. You knew the ins and out of it. And you can kind of go, oh, there's a loophole there that isn't unplugged. There's a loophole there that's unplugged. Was there and that's just inescapable. That's that's why we have to take ethics training as as CPAs. But have you identified something that's like, if AIG did this, it would. Been a silver bullet and I would not have been able to do my job. Sorry. Not being able to commit the fraud.
Nathan Mueller: [01:16:40] I think that there's some real, like basic stuff. You know, a big part of the problem was that all the controls in place that would have stopped this I was responsible for. And so. Right, right. I be to my kid. And here's here to me, it comes down to this and it's not necessarily IMG, but from an audit perspective. The two things were I worked with queries that I could download into Excel and type in and nobody ever verified them. So it was a simple as an auditor saying, run this in front of me or somebody else running the query to verify it. The other thing was that when we were audited, auditors came in and they gave me a list of what they wanted in a couple of weeks and they would accept copies of source documents versus actual source documents for verification. I could fake anything. I was part of the rolling out PeopleSoft program, so I was a power user at PeopleSoft so I could go into reports and rewrite, manipulate them, exclude things that they wanted. Report So you think you're looking at a list of all checks that were printed, But I'm giving you a list of all checks that were printed except manual checks, which is my fraud. Like, I could do that. You give me a printer, I can I can run multiple reports in different areas and make it look like I ran at six months ago with a time stamp from then, because I could just anything they wanted, I could fake. And so it was all super basic, all super simple, just like independent third party verification of anything I ever gave them. And there was no everything was accepted at face value, right?
Greg Kyte: [01:18:19] So there was no it was the professional skepticism that was that was missing, where it's like we trust this guy. But professional skepticism is like we still shouldn't trust him. Let's make sure that we that we at least go, Yeah, but again, there's like an endless I mean, that's what makes prevention of fraud so difficult because there's an endless list of things that you should and could do to make sure nobody's to plug all those holes that are out there. But actually doing all those, you know, you end up getting this cost benefit problem where it's like, we could do that, but it'd take a whole team of people to do that. And and people like you who are trying to do their job wouldn't even be able to do you their job because you're spending all your time trying to trying to comply with all of the the internal controls and the internal audit demands on you. So it's such a such an intractable problem, fraud, obviously, which but hopefully we're hopefully between your efforts of what you're doing and we're hoping our podcast in a little way, too, helps to plug as many holes as we possibly can.
Nathan Mueller: [01:19:23] Agreed.
Greg Kyte: [01:19:25] Awesome. And I think that's a great place to end. Well, hey, one more time, man. Thank you so much for carving some time out of your day to to talk to us. We appreciated a ton, so. Yeah. Muchas gracias.
Nathan Mueller: [01:19:36] Nathan. I appreciate it to you.
Caleb Newquist: [01:19:43] Okay. That was Nathan Mueller, and I thought that was great. Greg, did we learn anything?
Greg Kyte: [01:19:51] Absolutely that that was there was so much to me that I was able to glean about this case. So much of the the kind of the the more of the tacit sort of stuff, not the not the explicit here's the steps of the fraud. But it was so interesting to be able to listen to Nathan talk about like more of the texture of the fraud and things like that. And one of the thing that really stuck out to me and I think it stuck out to you, too, is that Nathan? He's he's like a good accountant. He's yes, he's like, really good at what he does. Yeah. And the fact the fact that he is so good at what he does is the reason that he was able to like like anybody who was dumber than him and worse than him at that job couldn't have pulled it off. Right. I mean, just with everything he was talking about with, you know, with how to how to manipulate the the internal controls, even the how to bury it in the in the financial statements and how to play as boss and play the auditors and stuff like that. The guy, his rules, the rules that he had for how to spend the money and all of the stuff with the with the gambling. 1099 I mean, the guy, he was smart and he thought this shit out. Yep. Yeah, but. But do you remember at the beginning where it was like. So. So were you a real are you a great people person? He was basically like, No, I was not a great person.
Caleb Newquist: [01:21:26] Yeah.
Greg Kyte: [01:21:27] It's kind of I was kind of a grump and I pretty much wouldn't leave me the fuck alone. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, but, but he had his like, his, like I said, his career capital was built because he was so good at what he did. And that not only gave him the trust, but it also gave him just the the sheer ability to be able to pull off this fraud. So connecting some dots from my life a long time ago on a podcast, I listened to the district attorney of Northern California who said his his advice was, if you want to prevent fraud at your company, make sure that everybody in the accounting department just fucking hate speech or like no team building. You want these people to just despise you. So like, like not only do they not work together well, they're like, hoping somebody does something bad so they can stab them in the back with a knife and, like, deliver them to their boss to go see this. This motherfucker needs to go. Yeah, but so that and which is which is not false if you're only goal is to make sure that fraud doesn't happen. But then with what we heard from Nathan, I'd like to add to that that not only do you want to hire an accounting department where they all hate each other, but also where they're all like super shitty at their job because if they're right, if they hate each other and they're shitty at their job, they can't even if they, they, if they're shitty of their job, they're too dumb to figure out how to manipulate the accounting system to perpetrate fraud. I mean, that would be part of it because they're not good at their job. And then the other part is even if they do try anyways, their coworkers are going to be ready to filet them at any moment. So there you go. Yeah, That's the internal control that they don't tell you about in school.
Caleb Newquist: [01:23:23] I think the other thing is that hopefully they're all a little bit lazy because as we've I think what we've discussed at great length in many of these episodes is that the perps end up working way harder at the fraud than they would at a regular day job. And so if you're lazy, you're not going to be like, Oh, I can't I can't keep that up. There's no way. So yeah, right. There's a so different kind of kind of unorthodox internal controls that you can implement there. So when these employees, average employees and employees that actively dislike each other.
Greg Kyte: [01:24:02] Yeah. Yeah. So during the interview process, if you say describe yourself in three words, and the three words aren't dumb, mean and lazy, you say, Get.
Nathan Mueller: [01:24:09] The fuck out.
Greg Kyte: [01:24:09] Of here. You're not the person we're looking for.
Caleb Newquist: [01:24:12] I'm I'm a disagreeable I'm a disagreeable person. You're hired, right? I guess my biggest takeaway from this was just you can tell that guy I spent a lot of years doing soul searching because, yeah, I think he has a pretty good grasp on. Where he was in his life and why he did what he did. Even if he doesn't maybe either talk about or know what the rationalization was because he was talking about like when you asked him was like, how were you feeling during this time? And he's like, I was miserable. Like, right. He wasn't he wasn't lying. Like, he was definitely telling us the truth that like that period, I was like, I was thinking it.
Greg Kyte: [01:24:55] Would be more nuanced. Yeah, I thought it'd be like it was fucking rad. But also. But no, he was just straight, you know.
Caleb Newquist: [01:25:02] Miserable straight ahead. And it was and it was specifically because he knew that it was all predicated on a lie. Yeah. And that underneath everything else that he, he knew that was wrong. And so that is. I don't know. I've read plenty of accounts of fraud. And you, you read plenty of accounts of people who are, you know, that that say there are Mooresville or they regret their decisions or this and that and whatever. And I don't you know, I give people the benefit of the doubt. And this was our first interview with the perp. So I guess for me to, like, have the conversation with him and and kind of hear him and watch his body language and the tone of his voice and everything, and it's just like, no, that dude was that dude was in a dark place. And he even said, like, getting near the end, like just how he treated people. He just he he told us that he was in that dark place. And I was I think I was surprised by his level of forthrightness about how bad it was for him.
Greg Kyte: [01:26:10] Right. Because when he was he.
Caleb Newquist: [01:26:12] And which is it? Which is interesting.
Greg Kyte: [01:26:13] Yeah. Because he basically said I was treating everybody as a means to an end. And you were like, Oh, man, I relate to that. So but it was not what I'll have to listen. No, no, that wasn't.
Caleb Newquist: [01:26:26] No, I didn't relate. I didn't relate to him in that it was but like a part where he was just like where he was part.
Greg Kyte: [01:26:34] Not the sociopathy, that wasn't the.
Caleb Newquist: [01:26:36] Know. How did you connect? Have you felt that I'm a have you felt that I was a sociopath this whole time?
Greg Kyte: [01:26:44] What is in your eyes? Just in your eyes.
Caleb Newquist: [01:26:47] Okay.
Greg Kyte: [01:26:50] The. Wow. Oh, let me think.
Caleb Newquist: [01:26:53] Oh, I got I got I got something. I'll have to bring this up with my therapist in my next session.
Greg Kyte: [01:26:59] Right. Right. One other thing that stuck out to me that was like a true learning moment was hearing him explain what it what the whole restitution process was. I didn't know that there was a you've got $8.5 Million to repay, but if you can't pay that back in 20 years and I guess we'll just write it off as bad debt that's that's fucking weird to me. I thought that that hung over your head for the rest of your life. But you, it's they, they've got an end date where you're like, after this point you're scot free. So that, that's going to motivate a lot of our listeners to go commit those frauds because, you know, the jail sentence is going to be light and, you know, you're not going to have to pay back all that money you steal. So let's go get it while the getting's good. I'm all right.
Caleb Newquist: [01:27:46] Yeah, right.
Greg Kyte: [01:27:51] Well, that's it for today's episode. Everybody. Remember, if your New Year's resolution is to lose £75, go to a federal minimum security prison.
Caleb Newquist: [01:28:01] And also, remember that although AIG is an international finance and insurance corporation, it had nothing to do with today's episode.
Greg Kyte: [01:28:08] So, Caleb, where can people find you out there in the Internet if they'd like to get a hold of you.
Caleb Newquist: [01:28:13] I'm on Twitter at C Nyquist and LinkedIn Backslash. Caleb Nyquist. Greg, where are you on the Internet?
Greg Kyte: [01:28:21] I am at Greg Kite. I'm pretty much all the social media handles and my only fans is titled The Canadian Package.
Caleb Newquist: [01:28:30] Lovely. Oh, Canada.
Greg Kyte: [01:28:33] Right. It's it's fraudulent. I'm not from there. This is a this is a this is a package from the great United States of America.
Caleb Newquist: [01:28:43] Oh, My Fraud is written by Greg Kight and myself. Our producer is Zach Frank. If you like the show, leave us a review or share with a friend. That's how people find the show. Be sure to subscribe on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen. And for the accounts out there, if you listen to this podcast on earmark, you could get free CPE. I don't know about Canada though.
Greg Kyte: [01:29:04] Not a No, not Canadians. It doesn't count for a Canadian CPE So.
Caleb Newquist: [01:29:08] That that's a that's a package to come later.
Greg Kyte: [01:29:11] It's a whole different package.
Caleb Newquist: [01:29:13] Different package. Join us next time for more advice. Swindlers and scams from stories that will make you say, Oh my. Oh my God, Canadian.