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Phony paychecks siphoned $340,000 from hospital, police say.

ST. PETERSBURG — A sharp-eyed worker scrolling through online pay stubs at Bayfront Medical Center discovered something that didn't seem right.

There was a listing for a paycheck the worker had never received.

Police say that simple observation helped unravel a scheme that siphoned nearly $340,000 from the hospital over several years.

"That started the whole thing," St. Petersburg police Sgt. Kevin Smith said of the investigation that culminated with the Monday arrest of Zsamiko Walters Reid, 40, of St. Petersburg.

Reid was a nursing services coordinator who helped manage a pool of employees who worked on an as-needed basis. Police say her scheme worked like this:

Reid would create a payroll check, intercept it before delivery, forge a signature and then deposit it into her checking account.

None of the checks amounted to more than $1,000, Smith said. Over the years, police said, Reid created checks in the names of 123 different workers.

It was unclear why the scheme went undetected for so long. Bayfront spokeswoman Kanika Tomalin said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

Reid, who has worked for the hospital for eight years, turned herself in to authorities on Monday and was arrested on a charge of grand theft.

She was released from jail Tuesday on her own recognizance. She could not be reached for comment. She filed for bankruptcy in 2004, court records show, listing debts of $101,976, including about $57,000 owed on her St. Petersburg home, $11,000 owed on her Saturn car, and numerous credit cards. She listed the home on 40th Avenue S as her main asset.

Authorities say the scheme created a strange tax problem that workers may now need to sort out. The phony paychecks inflated some workers' salaries, which means they may have slightly overpaid in income taxes. "They'll have to go back and make some adjustments," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt.

The hospital is cooperating with police and "will do everything to help the team members" deal with the situation, Tomalin said. She said current or past employees who may have been affected should call the hospital's human relations department.

Police also want to hear from people — especially anyone with direct knowledge of the fraud. Anyone with information was asked to call Detective Mark Marland at (727) 893-4846.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232.

Phony paychecks siphoned $340,000 from hospital, police say. 12/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5:27pm]
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