Lake Stevens School District employee caught in card misuse

The woman spent almost $50,000 on personal goods, according to a report from the state auditor’s office.

LAKE STEVENS — A former Lake Stevens School District employee said an emotional breakdown was to blame for nearly $50,000 in personal purchases on a district credit card, according to a report from the Office of the Washington State Auditor.

The fraud investigation, published last week, details the spending of the employee who worked in the district’s communications and community service department.

For eight months, the woman made large online transactions and bought groceries, clothing and other merchandise using a district procurement card. A district investigation determined the fraud to be an isolated incident.

Lake Stevens schools spokesperson Jayme Taylor said the district is unable to comment on an ongoing criminal matter.

The employee is not named in the state audit and The Daily Herald is not naming her because there has not been a decision made on whether she will be charged.

During her spending spree from September 2019 to April 2020, the woman allegedly presented incomplete reports to supervisors for approval. Then, she claimed to have submitted the reports and said they were lost by the accounting department.

An employee in the accounting department notified a supervisor and assistant superintendent of the missing records and an investigation was begun in May.

The district alleged in a response to the state auditor that the woman “coded the various personal and business charges to multiple budget codes, making it difficult to isolate the fraud.”

A review of the employee’s credit card activity since 2018 determined the fraudulent purchases began in September 2019.

In an email from May 4, 2020, the woman reportedly said she made personal purchases using the district credit card and attributed her behavior to an emotional breakdown.

Before being placed on administrative leave in May, the woman reviewed a credit card statement identifying the purchases.

In all, she spent $49,611. Another $7,417 in purchases was deemed questionable by the district but was denied by the woman.

She resigned last June.

In a response to the auditor’s investigation, the district detailed procedural changes it has made to guard against fraud. Steps included updating the procurement card manual, defining communication deadlines for unresponsive cardholders, removing card sharing and updated training for card users.

The district also said it was working with authorities to receive restitution for the full amount of misused funds, as recommended by the auditor’s investigation.

The case has been referred to the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and is under review.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

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