Charges against a Port Angeles woman accused of embezzling nearly $10,000 from the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4760 are expected to be filed in Clallam County Superior Court today, April 19.
Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 29-year-old Rischelle Lea Heaton on April 14 for allegedly writing herself $9,715 in checks from the VFW, $2,900 of which had come from the VFW’s Veterans Relief Fund, court records say.
The fund is used to help veterans and their families in emergency situations.
She was held in the Clallam County jail over the weekend for investigation of first-degree theft, 32 counts of forgery and two counts of computer trespass.
Prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour on April 17 to set bail on the case to $2,500 because of Heaton’s District Court warrant from 2015 and 13 failure to appears since 2005, but no bail was set on the case, said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Acker.
Heaton was released from jail April 17 after posting $500 bail on the District Court warrant.
Acker said on April 18 she had not yet made a charging decision, but said Heaton is facing up to one count of first-degree theft, up to 32 counts of forgery and up to two counts of computer trespass.
“I have to look at each count individually,” she said. “I’m still reviewing the charges.”
Heaton, who was the VFW’s secretary, allegedly forged the VFW’s quartermaster’s name on 32 checks to herself from November 2016 through March 2017, court records say.
Heaton had access to check books, all accounts, passwords and checking account numbers to assist in paying bills as part of her secretary duties, records say.
VFW Quartermaster William Barker told police he would have Heaton fill out checks to pay the bills and invoices before he would sign them.
Heaton did not have authority to sign checks, records say.
Barker declined to comment on the case this early in the process.
Barker hadn’t noticed money missing at first because the majority had come out of the “club” account, which runs the bar, he told police.
He told police he noticed money missing only after $2,900 had been transferred from the Veterans Relief Fund into the club account.
He told Sequim police that he believed the money was moved in two transfers within several days of each other in February.
During the first transfer, $1,200 was transferred from the Veterans Relief Fund account.
“On the same day Heaton wrote herself a check from the club account for the exact amount of $1,200, to which she forged (his) name and deposited into an unknown personal account,” deputies said in court records.
It is alleged that a similar transfer happened again a few days later. That was for $1,700, court documents say.
Bank staff provided police with copies of 32 checks with forged signatures. The bank manager pointed out to police that the signatures on all the checks were different from how Barker actually signs his name.
Police obtained a search warrant and found checks were deposited into Heaton’s account in person at the bank, via remote deposit through the bank’s cellphone application and though ATM deposits.
During an interview with law enforcement over the weekend, Heaton allegedly said she was facing financial stress, bills, foreclosure and unemployment, that her health was poor and that she planned to pay the money back with her tax return.
Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.