did my intern frame my coworker for credit card theft? — Ask a Manager

I’m off today, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2017.

A reader writes:

This past summer, the section I supervise had some interns working here. All of them were offered jobs here once the internships were over. However one of them has created a situation where she lied to the police, but my boss and HR have still decided to offer her a job.

A staff member really liked the intern’s jacket and would often comment saying so. When the jacket went missing, the intern went to security and the footage from the lobby and parking area showed the staff member taking the jacket to her car when most other people were in a meeting. The intern got the police involved and told them her wallet with all of her ID and credit/debit cards were in her pocket. It was found that dozens of Amazon orders were placed with the intern’s credit card in the name of the staff member, to be shipped to a pickup point near our office. Our office is opened without assigned seating so although IT could say which computer was used to place the orders there is no way of knowing who did the ordering.

The police believe it was the staff member and she has been charged for stealing and using the credit card. She admits to taking the jacket but says she doesn’t know anything about the card. She says the intern placed the orders in her name once she realized the jacket was missing as a form of revenge. The staff member is credible, she has no history of trouble working here, has no criminal record and is a good person who volunteers and is active with her church and her family. He husband has told me that her lawyer advised her to take plea to get less time in jail because a trial would not be good for her.

I am concerned about the intern having lied to the police and her now being offered a full-time job. I am not sure how to frame this when I speak to my boss. I want to discuss it with him because some of my other team members have concerns about this intern also.

I don’t know how your office could possibly sort through this better than the police and prosecutors can. You’re presumably not criminal investigators, and it sounds like there’s no obvious way to tell who placed those orders.

But I’d be very wary of assuming that the person who stole the jacket is telling you the truth about the rest of the incident. You say that she has no criminal record and is a good person who volunteers, but you also know that she stole a jacket from an intern. I think you need to consider that there’s more going on with her than you knew about.

The one fact you know for sure here is that she did indeed steal from a coworker (it’s on videotape and she admits that). Given that, you can’t give her the benefit of the doubt about the pieces of this that aren’t on video.

And note that you’re taking her word as fact. In the opening to your letter, you wrote the intern “lied to the police.” But you really don’t know that. Your only evidence for that is the word of someone who stole from a coworker and now has strong motivation to downplay any other pieces of that crime.

If you have other concerns about the intern, which it sounds like you do, you can absolutely share those with your boss. But you don’t have grounds for alleging that she placed those Amazon orders herself, and it would be wrong of you to assert that as fact. You can certainly pass along to your boss that your other coworker is claiming that’s what happened, but you should be careful to note that you’re only passing on information and that you have no way of judging the veracity of any of this. (And if nothing else, your boss should be aware that you and others in the office are looking at the intern with such suspicion. That has the potential to create a really bad situation, so your boss should know.)

All that said … it would be awfully poor judgment to use your own name when ordering on someone else’s stolen credit card! It’s like robbing a house and leaving a signed note behind. If anything here makes me wonder about the intern’s version of events, it’s this. But lots of people commit incredibly stupid crimes so that in itself isn’t evidence of anything … and again, these are all questions for the police, the prosecutor, and your coworker’s lawyer to work out. Your office can’t solve this.

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