$15K sought from ex-county worker for scheme

EVERETT — Prosecutors are asking that a former Snohomish County employee be ordered to pay more than $15,000 to the United Way of Snohomish County as part his punishment for pocketing money earmarked for charity.

Fredrick Bletson Jr., 61, also faces up to a year in jail after pleading guilty late last week to 10 counts of misappropriation of accounts by a public officer. The Everett man was a diversion counselor with the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office when he took money that was intended for non-profit groups.

Bletson, now a convicted felon, is scheduled to be sentenced in November. Prosecutors plan to recommend a nine-month jail sentence. Bletson is expected to ask for a first-time offender waiver that could spare him any jail time. Prosecutors are opposed to the request. King County deputy prosecutor John Carver said he won’t fight Bletson serving his sentence on work release if the Everett man qualifies for the program.

Bletson admitted last week that took money from clients who thought they were donating to charities in lieu of doing community service. Bletson told the clients that he would make sure the money went to “the right place.”

The money never made it to any charities and the clients never knew that Bletson was keeping the money for himself.

His crimes came to light in June 2010 after a female client complained about him making inappropriate comments. While authorities were investigating the woman’s complaint, staff in the prosecutor’s office uncovered irregularities in how Bletson was handling money turned over by clients.

Everett police detectives opened an investigation. Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe asked King County prosecutors to review the case to avoid any conflict of interest.

Bletson was put on administrative leave. He later resigned.

An Everett police detective concluded that Bletson’s comments to the female client were unprofessional, but not criminal. The investigation, however, uncovered that Bletson had been stealing for years.

He had worked part-time as a diversion counselor between 2002 and 2007. He also was working part-time in other county departments, including Planning and Development Services and Finances. Bletson became a full-time diversion counselor in 2008.

He counseled first-time felony offenders who qualified to have a charge dismissed or never filed if they fulfilled certain conditions, such as paying back crime victims and doing 100 hours of community service. On some occasions, clients who owed just a few more hours of community service were allowed make a donation to a non-profit instead.

Investigators uncovered that Bletson didn’t follow the standard diversion contract with dozens of clients. Instead of making them complete 100 hours of community service, Bletson allowed clients to “buy out” community service at a rate of $10 an hour. Clients provided Bletson with money orders he later wrote to himself.

Because money was not typically collected for community service hours, no one expected or missed the money that Bletson kept. The diversion clients never complained because they were given credit for community service hours. Money orders are not returned so the clients didn’t have any way to know that they’d been cashed by Bletson.

Prosecutors initially charged Bletson with 42 counts. As part of the plea agreement, he admitted to 10 separate incidents, dating back to 2006.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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