Former Zumiez employee sentenced to 5 years for thefts

Danielle Koehn of Marysville pleaded to guilty to bail-jumping and identity theft, among other things.

EVERETT — A Marysville woman who used her former job as a payroll employee to siphon more than $200,000 from a Lynnwood-based clothing company failed to convince a Snohomish County judge last week that she belonged somewhere other than prison.

Danielle Renae Koehn, 39, was sentenced to roughly five years behind bars. She pleaded guilty in September to 18 felonies. The crimes included first-degree theft, bail jumping and 16 counts of identity theft.

Koehn had spent about three years working as payroll coordinator for Zumiez, Inc. The clothing retailer caters to snow- and skateboarders. It has hundreds of locations around the U.S. and Canada.

The company fired her in 2014 after discovering dodgy financial transactions that appeared to trace back to her, including her spending on vacations.

By the time auditors and Lynnwood police finished their work, they discovered Koehn had engaged in a complicated scheme that involved access to Social Security numbers and other information for more than 200 employees. The data was used to create dozens of phony pay cards, which she loaded up with cash for her own use. She helped install the computer program that she used to make those cards.

“These crimes extended over a period of years,” deputy prosecutor Teresa Cox said in a sentencing memo. “They required extensive planning and sophistication and she even continued to commit these crimes after she left the employ of Zumiez.”

Lynnwood police detective Robert DeGabriele said this scheme was far more sophisticated than others he’s seen. His investigation of Koehn lasted more than two years.

“These types of cases in the broader sense, where people’s identities are being used for criminal activities, is on the upsurge. It’s a huge deal,” DeGabriele said.

These were not victim-less crimes, Zumiez audit director R. Adam Janicki said in court papers. The company is a close-knit place, and those who worked with Koehn continue to struggle with anger, frustration, embarrassment and “disgust that she would have the audacity to commit this fraud and lied to cover it up,” he wrote.

“She lied to herself. She lied to the Zumiez team, to the Lynnwood PD, and lied about the extent of her involvement in this crime,” he added.

Koehn had been scheduled for trial in early September but disappeared. She surrendered a few days later. The guilty pleas soon followed.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend five years. They also promised not to file dozens of additional potential charges, or to argue that the size of the thefts and abuse of trust warranted punishment greater than recommended under sentencing guidelines, court records show.

Koehn’s attorney, Timothy Leary of Seattle, wrote Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair that his client was suicidal when she opted to skip trial.

“However, she did not take the easy way out,” he wrote in a sentencing memo.

He urged the judge to consider imposing no time behind bars. He pointed out that his client had no prior criminal convictions, and the law allows a judge to consider the impact on children, in this case a high school-aged daughter.

“The state’s position in this case is that prison is the only appropriate remedy,” Leary wrote the judge. “As we evolve as a society, we are beginning to realize that prison is not the cure all.”

Fair was unpersuaded. She sentenced Koehn in keeping with state guidelines.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @snorthnews.

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