$775,000 embezzled in Arlington

ARLINGTON — A recently retired Arlington city employee is under investigation for allegedly stealing nearly $800,000 from the city during the past six years.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the Arlington woman for possible first-degree identity theft, first-degree theft and forgery, Arlington city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

“Everyone is just reeling from this,” Banfield said. “It’s a violation of the trust that the public puts in us. It’s also a violation of the trust that we as employees put in each other.”

The woman, 56, worked for Arlington for 30 years. She is a relative of at least one high-ranking city employee. Only the former employee is under investigation, Banfield said. All other city employees were cleared by police of any wrongdoing.

The woman allegedly spent part of her time on the job altering as many as 103 checks, depositing them into her own bank account, according to a search warrant filed Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court. Detectives also found evidence of a hidden marijuana-growing operation at her home.

Between February 2002 and June 2008, the woman is suspected of taking $775,753.98 from the city’s general fund, the documents said.

Investigators believe the woman forged signatures and created false supporting documents that made it appear the checks were for employee retirement and other benefit accounts.

After the bank returned the checks, the woman at times used a typewriter to change whom the check was written to, detectives allege.

“It is clear this was a complex ongoing crime to defraud the city of Arlington,” Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Thomas Koziol wrote in the affidavit.

The woman is not under arrest and no charges have been filed. She could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

On Monday, detectives served search warrants at the woman’s bank and her home.

In addition to bank and investment records, computers and other evidence, police also allegedly seized marijuana plants, scales and a ledger listing apparent drug sales, according to documents.

The Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force has assisted in the investigation because its detectives have expertise in sophisticated financial investigations, sheriff’s Lt. Mark Richardson said.

While working for Arlington, the woman split her time between human resource work and finance functions, Banfield said.

She retired at the end of May. On July 11, a city accountant found a suspicious check for $10,065.15 made out to the woman and notified supervisors.

At first, the employee believed the check was payout for unused sick time and vacation, but quickly learned no such payout had been made.

An investigation began and the city called state auditors, Banfield said.

“We needed their assistance on this,” she said. “They have some of the best tools for financial investigations.”

State law also requires local governments to immediately report suspected misappropriation of public money to the state.

The city also called the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office instead of the city police department to avoid any apparent conflicts of interest, Banfield said.

Investigators believe all the bad checks were written outside the city’s regular computerized check-writing system.

The city has changed its policies, Banfield said.

Manual checks no longer are permitted, and at least two people are reviewing the administration of all benefits, she said.

As the news spread among city employees, many cried. Others became angry. Some reacted by becoming sick to their stomachs, Banfield said.

“We are just devastated,” she said.

In 2008, Arlington’s general fund was about $11.5 million. Since the thefts apparently began, the general fund has grown by up to about $1 million each year, Banfield said.

The city is working to recoup all the missing money either through restitution from the woman or through the city’s insurance company.

“That’s a heck of a lot of money that we could have been doing a heck of a lot of things with,” she said.

Detectives continue to investigate, the documents said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Harry Lee Jones Jr.
Man gets 31½ years for shooting Everett motel guest 12 times

Harry Lee Jones Jr., 27, beat and then shot a Farwest Motel guest in 2018 while two accomplices looted his room.

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes for unhoused people. Here, a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in January 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

With credit scores out, will insurers cut or hike your rate?

Lack of affordable housing squeezed buyers and drove up home prices across Snohomish County.

Photo courtesy Laura Thompson 

Madison Thompson and her dog Stella.
Whidbey teen, golden retriever make top 8 in NY kennel show

Madison Thompson was one of the youngest competitors in her division of 80 kids.

Chris Stack and Samantha Soule film a scene of their movie, "Midday Black, Midnight Blue," on the Coupeville wharf June 14. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
Indie film crew: Whidbey residents are ‘generous and welcoming’

The movie makers are shooting scenes for a full-length feature at various sites around the island.

Everett's Patrick Hall was among people who put up signs in March to save the Longfellow School building.  He is now part of an advisory task force looking at options for the building, which the Everett School District had planned to tear down.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
National register listing could be next for old Longfellow

But the designation wouldn’t stop the Everett School District from tearing down the former school.

Abigail Cruz was awarded the American Association of University Women Edmonds Sno-King branch's $2,000 scholarship for Edmonds College. (AAUW Edmonds Sno-King)
Edmonds College student wins $2,000 AAUW scholarship

AAUW scholarship for Edmonds College student The Edmonds SnoKing Branch of the… Continue reading

Junelle Lewis becomes emotional while performing a dance with her children during the Justice to Jubilee Juneteenth Celebration at Skykomish River Park on Saturday, June 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Justice to Jubilee: ‘No one is free till everyone is free’

People gathered Saturday in a Monroe park to celebrate Juneteenth, a new federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery.

Galina Volchkova, the Volunteers of America Housing Director, discusses the volume of applications for rental assistance her office received Friday. (Katie Hayes / The Herald) 20210618
7,000 tenants, waiting for help, fear eviction after June 30

Rental assistance money won’t reach many landlords before the coronavirus eviction moratorium expires.

Most Read