On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-5203-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 27, 2012
Before Judges Skillman and Hoffman.
In this action for conversion, defendant Christine Irwin appeals from an April 13, 2011 order entering judgment against her, following a bench trial, in the amount of $42,714.64. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
We present the facts as adduced at trial. Karen Smith and Bruce Doxey, who are married, owned and operated a construction company named KSBD Contracting (KSBD) (collectively, "plaintiffs"). For about two years, starting in 2004, KSBD employed defendant, who is Doxey's sister, as a part-time bookkeeper. In the course of her duties, defendant had access to the company's checkbook. Defendant was authorized to write checks from the company account, but as a matter of custom gave the checks to Doxey or Smith for signature.
In 2006, Doxey received a call from his bank advising that KSBD's checking account was overdrawn. As Doxey explained in his testimony at trial:
I went down to the bank to discover why it was overdrawn. And, then they . . . gave me a printout and there was some payments to Ford Motor Credit, to the Pennsylvania Power, and some electronic transfers.
And, at the time, I thought there might be identity theft and - since Karen and myself and Christine were the only people that had access to the checking account, I called Christine from the bank . . . and asked her about those charges.
And I said, "Chris, I can fill an affidavit out with the bank now. They'll reimburse me the money and they'll go after the person, whoever it was, that did this." And then she admitted to me on the phone that it was h - her payments, that she had to make -
After an objection from defendant's counsel, Doxey continued:
That she had made the payments because - the Ford Motor credit had come to the house to repossess the van and . . . the power company was going to shut off the power at her house."
Defendant denied making any such confession.
At trial, the parties stipulated to the admission into evidence of a package of documents consisting of, among other items, signed statements made by plaintiffs to the police; affidavits of forgery; photocopies of forged checks; and a four-page chart showing the amounts, dates, and payees for ninety-four charges that plaintiffs contended were fraudulent. Of these charges, forty-two were checks with signatures ...