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Contact 6: One bad employee nearly got everyone fired

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- How well do you know your co-workers, and what they are doing at work? FOX6's Contact 6 says one bad apple almost got everyone canned!

"She decided to go into the cookie jar and take what she could," CFO Randy Sanderson said.

Sanderson was hired to figure out why a well-known funeral home was struggling financially.

"Something wasn`t adding up and it was suspected the Operations Manager may have been stealing funds," Sanderson said.

Those suspicions were correct. All signs led to Debora Kellom, who was not only in charge of the funeral home, but even told employees she was the owner.

"If she took money out of the cash register from the floral shop, she was the owner, nobody really said anything," Sanderson said.

The truth is, the funeral home was owned by an Arizona-based corporation called Perpetua. Sanderson says the company rarely had any presence at the funeral home.

"This was really an example of absentee ownership gone bad," Sanderson said.

Despite her six-figure income, Kellom, Sanderson learned, felt she was underpaid.

"She used that as somewhat of an excuse that if you`re not going to increase my pay than I will do some of these other things to the company," Sanderson said.

Kellom admitted to stealing $275,000 and spent the money on herself and her family.

"To private school for her daughter, to buying expensive clothing and accessories for herself. We found she took trips and paid for a family reunion using company money," U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor said.

Postal inspectors started looking into the case and brought federal mail fraud charges against her.

"This funeral home was really (this close) to being foreclosed on because of three years of back taxes and that would have meant 20 people out of a job," Sanderson said.

Kellom pleaded guilty to mail fraud for stealing more than $200,000 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and paying back the money. Her sentencing is this summer.