No jail time in theft of $400,000 from Snohomish water association

SNOHOMISH — A man accused of stealing more than $400,000 from a private water association in east Snohomish County pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Jesse Orvic Rowe, 76, of Snohomish, was convicted of first-degree theft, a felony.

He completed 240 hours of community service in lieu of a 30-day jail sentence. He also agreed to pay the water association $300,000 after civil mediation.

Prosecutors cited aggravating factors in the crime, saying that it was a major economic offense and involved the abuse of a position of trust, court records say.

Prosecutors had recommended a year in prison.

Rowe ran the Roosevelt Water Association for 25 years. The nonprofit buys water from the city of Everett and then sells it to its members.

Rowe used water association money to pay his credit card bills, court records show. He also used the money for gardening supplies, car repairs, gasoline and utility bills.

The missing funds were discovered in late 2012 as the water association was working on a loan for a construction project. No one aside from Rowe had reviewed the association’s financial transactions for years.

In court papers, Rowe was said to have interpreted the board of trustees’ “silence or ambivalence” as a sign that his additional compensation was appropriate.

Rowe completed the community service hours at Boy Scouts of America camps, records show. He built platforms and railings for the camps and helped design, build and install bunk beds.

Court papers indicate that Rowe sold his house to make the restitution. He had no previous criminal history.

The water association serves about 1,000 homes in unincorporated east county.

Reporter Diana Hefley contributed to this story.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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