The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has arrested a 49-year-old woman accused of stealing nearly $235,000 from a local pediatrician's office.
Deputies say Colleen Golka stole the money from Pediatrics of Tampa Bay, between 2011 and 2015, while working there as the office manager and bookkeeper.
"I feel we would have been out of business within 3 to 6 months if we had not caught this." Dr. Eugene Hiben, of Pediatrics of Tampa Bay, said. His practice currently serves about 2,000 children and employs 7 people. All of those families could have been searching for a new doctor and his employees were only months away from looking for new jobs.
Dr. Hiben says Golka had access to the companies books, debit card and checking account. His trust in her was unwavering. He describes Golka as an employee and friend. The two were friends outside of work. Their families would spend holiday's together. They even vacationed together.
"Colleen was our office manager for a period of 10-and-a-half years." He said. "The practice is fine, but solely because we stopped the hemmorage of cash."
Dr. Hiben says Golka was let go in November of last year. He says her attitude was becoming a problem. He was trying to get more people involved in the management and finances of the practice, but says Golka was continuing to push back. Almost as soon as she left, the new office manager found issues with the accounts.
"We were behind on taxes that I was unaware of. We were behind on vaccination bills that I was unaware of." He explained. "I had to take a personal loan against my home to pay some of these bills."
And the money that was taken could have been used toward his practice to improve care, give raises to his employees and himself and potentially hire more staff, Dr. Hiben explained.
Golka bonded out of jail yesterday. We went to her home in Wesley Chapel. Nobody answered the door, but a Mercedes Benz was sitting in the driveway.
According to arrest documents, Golka would withdraw company money from the ATM, she would use company funds to pay personal bills, buy gift cards and groceries. She also paid herself unauthorized vacation time, according to the report.
Dr. Hiben says his goal now is to warn other business owners that this could happen to them. His advice to to make sure more than one person is looking at the books, even if you have someone in charge who you trust.
"When one person is left unsupervised over a large sum of money, it can be, obviously, disastrous." Dr. Hiben said.