Former Ecology employee sentenced in theft case

5445jpawloski@theolympian.comMay 10, 2013 

A former secretary with the Shorelands Program at the state Department of Ecology was sentenced to 30 days of electronic home monitoring Wednesday after pleading guilty to second-degree theft for making unauthorized expenditures using state-issued procurement cards.

Peta Crites, 33, of Olympia made an Alford plea in Thurston County Superior Court Wednesday. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not formally admit guilt but concedes that there is enough evidence to convict him or her at trial.

An Alford plea is considered a criminal conviction and carries the same penalties.

Crites was accused in court papers of stealing almost $8,000 from her employers. Court papers allege that she used state-issued procurement cards to purchase alcohol, gift cards and other items.

As part of Crites’ felony judgment and sentence, she agreed to pay the Department of Ecology $2,500 in restitution.

According to court papers:

A detective with the Washington State Patrol began investigating unauthorized expenditures from DOE’s Shorelands Program in March 2011, after a supervisor discovered receipts for items DOE does not typically pay for, including beer, wine and gift cards.

As the former senior secretary for the Shorelands Program, Crites was in charge of verifying and coding receipts for procurement cards used by Conservation Corps crews to purchase food during jobs across the state.

The supervisor at DOE discovered that Crites kept numerous procurement cards locked in the cabinet above her desk.

The WSP detective found that unauthorized DOE procurement card purchases were made at Macy’s, Toys R Us, the Outback Restaurant, Starbucks, a Shell station, Target, Applebee’s, Sears, Forever 21, Cabela’s and Home Depot, totalling $950.

The detective found that Crites had used a Target gift card that had been purchased using a state procurement card. The detective also found a cashier at a Safeway store who identified Crites as the person who had made unauthorized purchases using a DOE procurement card in February 2011.

The investigation revealed a total loss amount to DOE between June 2010 and March 2011 of $7,960.

Jeremy Pawloski:

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