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After Pave & Bogaards discovered alleged embezzlement by a longtime employee, the San Francisco firm didn’t wait long to look for new help. The four-lawyer insurance defense shop is accusing Barbara Ann Boyd, its former office manager and legal secretary, of embezzling more than $200,000 in a lawsuit filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court. Law partners Robert Pave and Debra Bogaards were “shocked and outraged,” the suit says, to find out on Aug. 23 that the firm had $1,100 in the bank and owed $110,000 to vendors, with rent and payroll due in nine days. The same day, the firm posted a want ad on the craigslist Web site seeking a new legal secretary, to “start immediately.” Boyd could not be found to comment Friday. Oakland, Calif., attorney William Panzer confirmed that Boyd has consulted with him, but said he does not officially represent her at this point. “I’m not really authorized to make a comment,” he said. Though the firm says it doesn’t know “the precise mode and manner, extent and amount” of the alleged embezzlement, the plaintiffs accuse Boyd of taking more than $200,000 from bank accounts and on credit for her own use. They claim the money helped buy time-shares in San Francisco and Honolulu, and that the firm’s accounts with vendors such as Office Depot were used to buy televisions and other gifts for Boyd and her friends. “This is a betrayal of trust and loyalty of a longstanding employee with us from our inception, with whom we’ve been both friend and employer,” said Bogaards, the firm’s managing partner. The firm reported its suspicions to the San Francisco Police Department. Lt. Kenwade Lee, of the fraud and financial crimes detail, confirmed there is an ongoing investigation but declined to elaborate. Emphasizing that the firm is “successful and solvent,” Bogaards said Pave & Bogaards has already paid about 80 percent of the vendors and experts it found it owed as a result of the alleged embezzlement. “We’re fortunate our firm has been so resilient in an otherwise devastating situation,” she said. According to the suit, Boyd began working at the firm in 1997, and her responsibilities included paying bills as well as signing and depositing checks. Apparently, red flags began waving last spring. In May or June, vendors notified the firm that they hadn’t been paid, and that they’d sent many past-due notices. Around the same time — in May — Boyd decided to move to Mississippi; however, she offered to return to San Francisco for one week a month to pay the firm’s bills and bill its clients, the suit says. In the course of Boyd’s transition to independent contractor, the lawsuit says, the firm “learned of several accounting irregularities.” After the firm began questioning Boyd, demanding information on accounts receivable, accounts payable and money in the bank, the suit says she laid out the financial scenario in the Aug. 23 e-mail. The online want ad the firm posted that day is upbeat and boasts of a “lovely work environment” with zero overtime, regular holiday and post-trial celebrations and “customized mahogany furniture.” Asked last week if they’d made any hire yet, Bogaards laughed. “We’re working with a temp agency,” she said, adding, “I don’t want to get a flood of phone calls, please.”

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