Michael Vines

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Michael Charles Vines (born c. 1971 in Birmingham) is a former bookkeeper who pleaded guilty to wire fraud relating to embezzlement from the Country Club of Birmingham.

Vines studied accounting at more than one college, but did not complete a degree. He joined HealthSouth's fixed asset management division in April 1997. In 2001 he became concerned about accounting practices he observed that would have under-reported the company's expenses and thereby inflated its net income. He approached his supervisor, Cathy Edwards, to personally approve any such entries and later observed her falsify an invoice requested by an auditor. Vines left HealthSouth to take a position at the Country Club of Birmingham in May 2002.

That same year, Vines attempted to blow the whistle on HealthSouth's accounting irregularities by contacting its auditor, Ernst and Young by email. A partner in Ernst and Young's Birmingham office shared the content of the email with Bill Owens at HealthSouth and was satisfied with the company's response to the emailed allegations. In January 2003 Vines began making anonymous allegations on an internet message board focused on HealthSouth. Those posts were continued after the company was raided in March. HealthSouth security director James Goodreau was able to identify the author of those posts on orders from Owens. Vines testified in preliminary federal court hearings as the investigation proceeded and later testified before the U.S. Congress about his experiences as a whistleblower.

At the Country Club of Birmingham, Vines was promoted to information technology specialist in 2006 and to management information systems and accounts receivable clerk in 2008. During the club's 2017 year-end audit, a $455,643.72 discrepancy was found between the its bank statements and Vines' account reconciliation statements. During the inquiry into the discrepancy, Vines was found to have attempted to manipulate prior entries in the organization's accounting software. He was confronted and resigned in June 2018. A subsequent search of his workspace turned up several un-deposited checks. An investigator concluded that Vines had embezzled the missing funds in a scheme that dated back to 2007. He entered an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. District Court Judge Annemarie Axon sentenced him to serve 41 months in prison.

References

  • Mollenkamp, Carrick (May 20, 2003) "An Accountant Tried in Vain To Expose HealthSouth Fraud" The Wall Street Journal
  • Robinson, Carol (September 3, 2019) "Employee of country club in Mountain Brook accused of stealing nearly $500,000, prosecutors claim." The Birmingham News
  • Koplowitz, Howard (September 5, 2019) "Ex-Country Club of Birmingham employee charged with fraud once played role in exposing HealthSouth." The Birmingham News
  • Robinson, Carol (February 21, 2020) "Ex-Country Club of Birmingham worker gets federal prison for embezzlement of $630,000." The Birmingham News