STANWOOD — Every time a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of Stanwood dies, the fraternal organization sends a $1,000 check to the widow.
It’s a gesture of goodwill meant to offer some sliver of financial relief during a time of grieving.
But now, the former secretary and treasurer who was in charge of the group’s Widows and Orphans Fund is accused of stealing, at minimum, $22,950 to supplement his own income and to build a new garage on his property in Chelan.
Dennis Craig Withers, 59, who now lives in Moses Lake, was charged on Nov. 30 in Snohomish County Superior Court with first-degree theft.
The alleged theft was first reported to the sheriff’s office in January by the president of the Free and Accepted Masons Camanio Lodge No. 19, the oldest Masonic lodge in Snohomish County. He provided a detective with his audit of the account, including copies of associated checks and bank statements, a thumb drive with documents and spreadsheets, and a laptop computer used by Withers.
The fund’s accounts were opened in May 2016 — just after Withers was elected to his position as secretary and treasurer — starting with a little more than $125,000. It was the treasurer’s job to keep the fund going, asking members for a contribution of $25 or so whenever a certain number of contributions to widows had been made.
Withers closed the accounts when he relinquished his position, and before handing over treasurer’s materials to the president, along with a cashier’s check for $88,000.
It was a move that surprised the president, since no one had asked for the accounts to be closed.
“My conclusion, after many hours of research into the accounts is that there was approximately $30,000 in questionable transactions from May, 2016 to when the account was closed on November 15, 2019,” the Freemasons president wrote.
The detective found withdrawals for $11,800 between July and October 2018, and another $11,150 in electronic transfers going from the fund to a Washington Federal bank account belonging to Withers, made between December 2018 and May 2019.
The treasurer is not authorized to make withdrawals or electronic transfers from the funds.
At his Moses Lake home, Withers allegedly told the detective he made withdrawals so he could pay contractors to build a garage on a property he owned in Chelan. He also reportedly said he made transfers to his account to help cover his monthly expenses, about $5,000. He received $2,800 per month from unemployment.
According to charging papers, Withers said he intended to pay the money back but ultimately never made any real effort to do so before he closed the accounts.
Withers is scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 17.
Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; email@example.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.