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American accuses an employee of stealing $200,000 from his Ukrainian business. Employee denies allegations

A few years ago, entrepreneur John Sung Kim sold his Five9 startup in the United States, moved from San Francisco to Kyiv, and assembled a development team to launch a sales and marketing automation startup JetBridge. In 2021, John’s accountants discovered that one of JetBridge’s top managers, Yuliya Frolova, within a year transferred around $200,900 of the company’s money to her personal accounts. John told AIN.UA what happened. Yuliya, for her part, calls these accusations slander. 

Background

Yuliya joined the JetBridge team as Operations Manager since its launch in 2019. One of her tasks was to pay salaries to the Ukrainian team, so she had access to the company’s accounts. According to John, at first, she did well in terms of her duties. But in 2021, a team from the United States began to monitor Ukrainian operations and uncovered some issues.

“When it was announced that control would pass to the team in the United States, Yuliya said that she had contracted the coronavirus and disappeared. We asked her to provide papers from the hospital because our company pays for medical expenses, but she refused. Then a team in the United States discovered her fraudulent financial activities,” says John. 

Story details

According to John, financial specialists at JetBridge in the US checked the transactions on the company’s accounts. They found that Yuliya used her PrivatBank accounts and Payoneer account to transfer company funds to herself in multiple transactions. It became possible, among other things, because since coronavirus restrictions, it has become more difficult for John and other Americans to come to Ukraine and monitor what is happening with the company’s money. 

“According to our current estimate, the company lost about $200,900 due to transactions carried out by Yuliya Frolova. We do not know the final amount yet, since she has created a complex network of transfers to and from her accounts in PrivatBank and Payoneer,” the entrepreneur told AIN.UA. 

According to the entrepreneur, the employee also withdrew money from JetBridge accounts at ATMs: there is data on 50 such transactions in different ATMs for a total of $46,000. As an example, the entrepreneur cites data on the withdrawal of 60,000 UAH from the company’s account in 2 days: 

Courtesy of the company’s founder

According to the entrepreneur, from the company’s point of view, withdrawing cash from ATMs was pointless since JetBridge does not make cash payments to its employees. The employee performed such transactions in the span of 19 months. When it became known about them, she blocked him on Facebook and stopped all communication. The other day, the company’s management nevertheless contacted her via Zoom, though the meeting was unsuccessful. 

“I am from San Francisco. Here it is customary to respect and promote women in IT because they are underrepresented in the industry. Therefore, we tried extremely hard to teach Yuliya, to acquaint her with famous people from the Valley, to give her great responsibility. Money is not so important to us, but we were unpleasantly struck by her decision to deceive us for such a long time. Now I have no goal to destroy her life, I just want to warn the IT community,” says the entrepreneur. 

According to the entrepreneur, part of the amount ($35,000) Yuliya also transferred to a person named Viktor Kuchko, who lives in Zhytomyr.

Courtesy of the company’s founder

According to the company, since November 2019, she has also transferred about $119,944 from Stripe’s corporate account to her Payoneer account.

The entrepreneur also stressed in his commentary that he would not want this story to affect Ukraine’s image negatively and that it would not affect his decision to do business here. According to the company, Yuliya is a Russian national who now lives in Ukraine. Yuliya herself denies this and says that she is Ukrainian.

John says that he is going to file a complaint about Yuliya’s actions with both American and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies (on charges of Internet fraud and embezzlement of other people’s property).

Comment of the second party

Yuliya herself calls this allegation slander. In her commentary to AIN.UA, she indicated the following:

  • Yuliya has worked at JetBridge since the founding of the company. At first, she was hired there as a sales manager, but then other obligations were transferred to her, including, she was responsible for payments to employees and the purchase of equipment on site. 
  • Yuliya does not have a signed contract with JetBridge, and, according to her, John demanded that she sign the contract retroactively. She had access to the company’s account, but, according to Yuliya, it was John’s personal account in a Ukrainian bank, and, without his knowledge and confirmation of transactions, she could not conduct transactions with him. JetBridge did not have a registered legal entity in Ukraine.
  • According to Yuliya, the accusation of stealing money arose because when the audit passed and it was found out that the company’s money was going to incomprehensible Ukrainian accounts, it was necessary to find an explanation. According to her, the situation was worsened by the fact that the company lost several large clients in March. 
  • Employees were paid money to personal accounts or in cash. “As far as withdrawals of money from ATMs on April 15-16, 2021 is concerned, these were cash payments to employees. The company partially paid salaries in cash. And April 15 is the payroll period,” she says. Since she could not withdraw money from John’s Ukrainian bank account for salary payments, the money was transferred to her personal account or withdrawn from an ATM. The entrepreneur himself stressed that the company did not pay salaries to employees in cash. 
  • Also, the money had to be withdrawn to purchase equipment since the company could not do it by bank transfer. Yuliya provided photos of paper receipts for laptops purchased at Technoplace store, Kyiv, in 2020 (the editorial office has the copies).
  • She also denied the allegation that she had a Russian passport She showed a photo of a Ukrainian document (the AIN.UA editorial office should note that it is impossible to have two passports in Ukraine, but many have two or more, including a Russian passport. We do not know whether Yuliya has a Russian passport). 
Courtesy of Yuliya Frolova
  • She blocked John on Facebook because, after his publication, she received multiple messages with accusations and threats. 
  • She phoned John to discuss the situation, but the parties did not come to an agreement.

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