Treasurer's cashier charged

Catherine Betts, a former Clallam County Treasurer's Office employee being investigated for embezzling an estimated $617,467, was charged with one count of first-degree theft on Tuesday, March 16, in Clallam County Superior Court.

Betts, 46, moved from Port Angeles to Shelton after being fired in June 2009. She hasn't been arrested, but a criminal summons was issued for her to appear April 23 in Clallam County Superior Court for arraignment.

First-degree theft is a Class B felony

punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The charging documents filed by Assistant State Attorney General Scott Marlow allege Betts stole real estate excise tax revenue and other funds totaling at least $617,467 while working as a cashier in the treasurer's office between June 1, 2003, and May 30, 2009.

Major offense

The documents state the crime was a major economic offense or series of offenses for four reasons:

1) It was a loss "substantially greater than typical."

2) It involved a "high degree of sophistication."

3) It occurred over a lengthy period of time.

4) She used a position of trust, confidence and fiduciary responsibility to commit the crime.

A special investigation by the Washington State Auditor's Office determined the stolen money could be as much as $793,595 dating back to 2003 but only $617,467 can be confirmed because some records are unavailable.

The report recommends seeking recovery of the $617,467, investigative costs of $60,067 and $6,000 charged to the county by the bank for the records.

Seven-month probe

The seven-month investigation began after the Clallam County Treasurer's Office reported on May 19, 2009, a "possible misappropriation of public funds" consisting of $1,200 from two real estate excise tax transactions.

It revealed the theft totaled $617,467 over six years beginning in 2004 and several methods were used to conceal it.

Betts was hired in January 2001 and in January 2003 became a cashier whose duties included receiving payments, preparing daily deposits and reconciliations, recording daily real estate excise tax affidavits and preparing a monthly real estate excise tax statement.

According to the report, Betts would deposit checks, steal cash and record fictitious checks in the county's accounting system equal to what she stole.

Glitches, skips

To reconcile the stolen money, she under-reported the real estate excise tax payments.

When these reports were sent monthly to the state Department of Revenue, Betts listed explanations such as system glitches, missing affidavits or the word "skipped" to explain the missing numbers, according to the report.

As part of the scheme, she would destroy the copy of the sequentially numbered real estate sales tax affidavit the treasurer's office is required to keep.

Betts recorded an average of $11,022 per month in checks, which dropped to $2,108 in June 2009 and $1,281 in July 2009.

Betts was placed on administrative leave before being fired on June 19, 2009.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@

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