It is received wisdom that more frauds are committed by men than women, and that the bigger the amount stolen, the more likely that the perpetrator will be male. The story of Joyti Waswani is one that defies that stereotype. She believes that given the right motivation and opportunities women might well get involved in fraud, especially if the culture of an organisation allows it to happen. She shared her story at the 4th Counter Fraud and Forensic Accounting Conference, held by University of Portsmouth, on 6 June 2014.
Joyti Waswani worked as an executive assistant for senior managers at Goldman Sachs in London. It was a high pressure culture and her bosses were expected to work all hours to make money. To facilitate that, Joyti was expected to manage as much of their personal lives as she could: paying bills, transferring money, organising kids’ appointments etc. To help her do this her bosses gave her all of the details of their bank accounts and other financial products, and fully expected her to forge their signatures on cheques and other documents. She got quite good at it over time.
She remembers the rush of adrenaline when she forged her first cheque for £24k and deposited at the Woolwich. She forged the signature as she had so many times with the approval of her employers, and paid the money into an account held in her maiden name. She didn’t touch any of the money for 11 weeks: then she spent it all in one massive spree. It was six months before she did it again, this time for £48k. She stole £1.4m before her job changed and she started to work for another boss. This time she had access to her boss’ enormous personal portfolio and the values of her fraudulent transactions increased accordingly: in 2001 she wrote a £2.5m cheque for herself.
She thought she might get caught at anytime. After the £2.5m transaction her boss’ personal Goldman Sach’s money manager came into to do a full review: he finished his visit by buying Joyti a present to thank for her great work. Never mind the professionals, in the end she was caught by her boss’ wife. Certain that a £300k payment to Joyti was evidence of an affair, she confronted her husband. He protested his innocence and referred the payment to compliance. They identified £500k and £300k cheques, one which her boss had asked her to forge his signature on and one which had done for herself.
Shortly after, Joyti was arrested by City of London Police. They couldn’t believe that she had managed the whole thing on her own and kept grilling her for the name of the mastermind. Maybe we too would struggle to believe that £4.3m could be stolen using such a simple method. She can barely believe it herself. Having served three and half years in prison, and being released in 2007, she now works as Director of Development at the Royal London Society helping to find opportunities for convicts, and also shares her insights and experience with counter-fraud professionals.