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Bookkeeper accused of stealing $40,000 from Mellelo Coffee Roasters

Police have accused a Mellelo Coffee Roasters bookkeeper of embezzling approximately $40,000 from the company since 2008.

Ronda Susan Bennett, 47, of Central Point, has been arrested on charges of first-degree aggravated theft and five counts of first-degree theft.

Mellelo's officials became aware of the missing money late last year when a third-party audit turned up discrepancies in the company's books, Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen said.

"When the audit was finished, things just didn't add up and we were called in at that point to investigate," Hansen said.

Medford financial detectives worked with the auditor to turn up a pattern of theft that reportedly began in 2008.

Hansen said the thefts included the taking of cash and doctoring books to hide losses.

In all, Bennett is suspected of stealing $40,000 from the company.

Hansen did not know if Bennett had fallen on hard times financially and felt compelled to embezzle from her employer.

"Regardless of whether you are having money problems, it is never a good idea to steal," Hansen said. "You are going to get caught eventually in these types of cases. There is always a paper trail that leads back to the suspect."

Sal Mellelo, who owns the company, declined to comment on the details of the case.

"All I am going to say is that it was a 10-month investigation and that there is a pretty substantial amount of evidence," Mellelo said.

Hansen said businesses can protect themselves by hiring a company to perform a background check on potential bookkeepers.

"It will cost a little to hire a background check, but it's well worth it," Hansen said.

The police department does not perform background checks for companies, he said.

"Another good idea is performing a business audit of your books periodically to see if everything is in order," Hansen said. "They key is to have a checks-and-balances system and not leave one person in charge of your books."

Bennett was cited and released by Medford police and was arraigned on the theft charges earlier today.

During her arraignment, she was ordered by the court to not seek employment which involves the handling of money.

— Chris Conrad

Ronda Susan Bennett - Jackson County Jail