EVERETT — The former executive director of a Lynnwood feline welfare organization won’t face jail time for embezzling more than $61,000 to support his gambling addiction.
Jason Thompson, 39, pleaded guilty Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court to first-degree theft charges for defrauding the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project in 2018.
He’ll pay upward of $46,000 in restitution to the project he once led.
“This incident has hurt me in so many different ways,” Thompson told Judge Janice Ellis during the hearing. “The animal welfare field is my passion, it is my love and this addiction has taken that away from me.”
In June 2018, a bookkeeper for the nonprofit noticed discrepancies in the clinic’s bank account, according to charging papers. Thompson faulted a bank error for the missing funds on at least two occasions, and voluntarily replaced the money.
He also submitted fake invoices worth thousands of dollars from companies the clinic had previously partnered with for a fundraising event. In charging papers, a Lynnwood officer noted obvious differences in the checks cashed by Thompson.
In a July meeting with the bookkeeper, Thompson reportedly said he used the money for gambling. He continued to withdraw money before his termination at the end of the month.
At the time, Thompson paid back $10,000.
“The amount of money that you wrongfully acquired through this is a stunning amount of money,” Judge Ellis said. “I don’t know a lot about how you could purloin that much money, in that short of time.”
But the judge commended Thompson, who according to his attorney participates weekly in treatment for his gambling addiction and has voluntarily banned himself from area casinos. He now resides out of state to live closer to his daughter.
According to a plea agreement, Thompson won’t go to jail, but will pay $46,856.48 to pay back for his crime.
An attorney from the prosecutor’s office said Thompson typically would’ve faced 30 days in jail, but protocols in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the recommendation of no jail time.
“My initial reaction to ‘zero days in jail, just pay restitution’ was not positive,” Ellis said. “The driving question for me is, is it enough?”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; email@example.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.