SUSPECTED $775,000 CITY THEFT INVESTIGATION
August 07, 2008
(ARLINGTON, WA) -- In what could turn out to be one of the largest embezzlement cases in governmental history in Snohomish County, a recently retired Arlington city employee is under investigation for allegedly embezzling over $775,000 from Arlington’s city coffers during the past six years.
The employee, who worked in finance and human resources, has not been arrested or charged and the investigation by Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives, the city of Arlington and the Washington State Auditor’s office continues. The fifty-six year old woman retired in May of 2008 after working for the city some thirty-six years. She began her employment with Arlington in 1972.
The woman is being investigated on charges ranging from possible first-degree identity theft, to forgery and first-degree theft.
Sheriff’s office detectives served search warrants at the woman's home and her bank earlier this week and seized computers, banking records and other documents.
In a strange twist to the investigation detectives also allegedly found at the woman’s home some marijuana plants, scales for weighing materials and a financial ledger indicating a marihuana growing and selling operation had been going on at the location. Police seized the plants, scales and other materials.
In what the sheriff’s office believes was a complex theft scheme over a long period of time they think the employee forged a number of different signatures on checks and also created false supporting documents that made it look like the checks were for payments of legitimate employee retirement and other benefit type accounts.
According to search warrants filed in the case authorities believe that between February 2002 and June 2008 the woman may have embezzled a total of $775,753.98 from the city's general fund by writing over 100 manual checks that were apparently written outside of the city’s computerized check writing system. The checks were made out to an account held by the employee.
Manual checks are no longer permitted by the city and at least two employees must review the administration of all benefits that are paid out.
Detectives have been unable to immediately determine if any theft of funds occurred before February 2002 due to limitations in the city’s records systems.
What sparked the investigation into the theft was a discovery by another city employee in mid July. On July 11 an accountant for the city found what appeared to be a suspicious check for over $10,000 dollars that was made out to the now retired employee under investigation. The accountant notified supervisors and shortly thereafter the investigation began.