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How CardPlayer Magazine Got Played - to the Tune of $1 Million+

Logo of CardPlayer Magazine

Sometimes, it is not the story that is the story, but the story that lies behind the story which is the actual story. Such appears to be the case with the recent high-profile arrest of Shelby "Anna" McCann, former employee of CardPlayer magazine, who presumably helped herself to anywhere from 1.1 to 1.4 million dollars of the company's funds over a period of five years between 2011 and 2016, at which time she resigned.

Photograph of Shelby McCannShelby “Anna” McCann
Photograph by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police

Allegedly using the proceeds of her theft, McCann relocated to Hawaii where she resided until arrested in May. It took several months for her to be extradited to Nevada, and she now faces 23 theft-related charges along with a single count of unlawful acts regarding computers.

McCann's duties at the magazine were primarily those of bookkeeper and comptroller. During her term of employment, it is alleged that she raised her own salary time and again, used company funds to pay off personal credit cards, purchased all manner of expensive gifts for herself, and engaged in numerous other one-time and continuing schemes to siphon off funds to use on her own behalf.

CardPlayer and the Shulmans

Business Diagram

The magazine is currently owned by two very prominent tournament poker players, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman and her husband Barry Shulman. Their combined winnings on the poker circuit exceed $6.5 million -- to which the winnings of Barry's son Jeff Shulman – an editor at CardPlayer – add around another $3.5 million to the kitty.

Barry, Allyn, and Jeff ShulmanBarry (left), Allyn (center),and Jeff (right) Shulman Need to Pay Better Attention to Their Business Finances

While most of the news on this incident revolves around the personalities involved or the spectacular charges leveled against Ms. McCann, the real story is found in exploring the underlying details of just how a single individual managed to bilk such a gigantic amount of money out of a single business entity for five years running without the raising of even one single red flag.

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Failures of Oversight

Binoculars

It is reported that the magazine underwent an extreme staff reduction right before McCann was hired, due to the effects of poker's Black Friday, which perhaps left her wearing many different hats that were once the province of multiple individuals. Yet, even so, the most elementary of accounting principles should have uncovered a shortfall at the close of her first year on the job (at the very latest).

The fact that this deception continued for five years running is a significant indicator that the company itself was not properly managed quite apart from McCann's larcenous tendencies. Two highly-accomplished World Series of Poker players, one of whom is a lawyer, should never have allowed this incident to fester for so long.

It is important to remember that this was not a trusted employee who had worked for the Shulmans for decades. Instead, she was a recent hire who was apparently given the keys to the kingdom from the moment she was brought on board. The Shulmans claim that she started raising her own salary every two weeks almost from the get-go -- yet it took them five years to notice that her annual checks didn't add up to the $37,000 they had agreed to as compensation.

Bottom Line

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Most normal precautions seem to have been ignored in this case. A brand new employee was simply left with no apparent oversight or third-party checks-and-balances for years on end. It is especially interesting that this all happened in Las Vegas: a town that is normally pretty up-to-date on the latest procedures for keeping employee hands out of the cookie jar. Now, this is not to say that McCann isn't guilty of everything, or at least a lot, of what she is accused of doing. But that is what they have a justice system for- to establish the veracity of the accusations.

What does seem likely, however, is that her alleged career as a serial embezzler should have been much shorter than it finally proved to be. Few such cases start out with someone ripping off gigantic amounts of money from Day One. It typically starts small and then grows once the perpetrator realizes how easy it is and how little attention anyone is paying to what they are doing. Even Bernie Madoff didn't start with billions.

Much is also being made of the fact that Barry Shulman and his son Jeff each put in $20,000 to recapitalize the magazine after the theft was discovered. That isn't a lot of money to cover a million in losses, and it isn't like they are doing anybody any favors. It's their magazine. They foolishly allowed someone to plunder them, and they naturally have to bear the consequences of their lack of diligence. Ultimately, whatever the outcome of the legal case may be, the ownership group of CardPlayer magazine took five years to notice that their bookkeeper was dealing off the bottom of the deck. It is not a crime to trust someone, but both the Shulmans and McCann are now facing serious losses that should have never been allowed to grow this large.