Altered amount on paycheck spells trouble

Someone changed the 3s to 8s on the three city payroll checks that were cashed.
YOUNGSTOWN -- If you haven't cashed it yet, take a look at your paycheck.
Is the amount shown two ways -- numerically and written out?
Most employers show the amount twice to prevent altering.
You show the amount twice -- words and numbers -- when you write a personal check.
The city doesn't use the safety feature, which made it possible for someone to change 3s to 8s on three paychecks. The amount of the theft is $600.
"I'm not sure why we don't write anything out. It's a logical question to ask and one that I will ask," Law Director John A. McNally IV said Friday. "I'll bring it up with the folks in the finance department."
McNally said the city's paychecks are computer generated in-house. He intends to find out how difficult it would be to add another field that would add the amount of the check in words.
The checks under investigation were endorsed by a seasonal park department employee.
Not all the deposit stamps are legible on copies of the checks. At least one check was cashed at a market on the North Side, according to the deposit stamp.
McNally said if there's more than one suspect, the city will review the chain of custody of the checks in its investigation.
The law director said he took a look at the altered checks and, at first, didn't notice anything amiss until directed to the dark pencil or pen marks that converted the 3s to 8s.
McNally believes this is the first time city paychecks were successfully altered. He hopes it's the last.
The checks
The first check was issued July 5 for $332.94. It was cashed for $382.94.
On July 19 a check for $235.66 was cashed for $285.66.
On Aug. 2 a check for $309 was cashed for $809.
The seasonal employee, a 23-year-old South Side woman, was hired to work the 2002 summer program from June 10 to Aug. 2. She earned $7.50 an hour as a playground director and quit July 24, records show.
Joseph R. McRae, park department director, said he would speak to the woman's supervisor to determine why she quit before her seasonal employment ended. It's possible she quit before being terminated, he said.
The theft was discovered this week in the finance department during a reconciliation of payroll checks. Finance Director David Bozanich wasn't available to comment Friday.
The altered checks were turned over to the police department as evidence.
City Prosecutor Dionne M. Almasy said she'll review the case once the detective assigned has completed the investigation.
A standard practice
Struthers Auditor Mary Ellen Jones said her city's paychecks, which are subbed out to a check-writing company, show the amount two ways.
"I've been here 30 years, and it's always been like that," Jones said. "All our checks are written that way, even the ones we do manually."
Jones said that aside from a safety feature, banks prefer that the amount be written twice. If, for example, she said, the numerical amount is $102 but the written amount is "one hundred and one," the bank will accept the written amount.

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