The Chehalis Police Department has recommended Centralia City Councilman Dan Henderson be charged with felony forgery and fraud after an investigation that concluded this week.
Henderson is accused of using his former position as a Lewis County veterans specialist to help one of his own tenants pay for a delinquent account at Centralia City Light, according to findings in a Chehalis Police Department investigation.
He allegedly encouraged a client to forge his brothers name in order to secure $450 for the delinquent bill.
Henderson denied the allegations and questioned the timing of the police departments investigation.
Henderson advanced to the general election for the Position 2, at-large seat after coming second to fellow Councilman Lee Coumbs in the primary election Tuesday.
It was interesting it all came out a week before the primary, Henderson told The Chronicle on Thursday afternoon. Im certain this was an attempt to smear me prior to the primary. Im confident I will be cleared of all these allegations.
The Chehalis Police Department is recommending the Lewis County Prosecutors Office file charges, which includes signing a document under deception (Class C felony) and using a public position to falsify accounts (Class B felony).
The police department also is recommending a misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft.
Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has not yet confirmed whether or not charges will be filed. On Friday afternoon, he said he had not yet seen the investigations findings.
It was just shipped over yesterday, Meyer told The Chronicle. It hasnt even hit my desk yet.
According to the police departments investigation:
Henderson was renting his property at 1414 Logan Street in Centralia to tenants Don Burns and his half brother Floyd Romesha. Romesha moved out in June 2010 and Burns was unable to pay about $1,000 in bills owed to Centralia City Light.
Romesha requested assistance from the Veterans Relief Fund in June the next year. At that time, Henderson denied Romesha and instead gave him food and fuel vouchers.
By August 2011, the city sent Henderson a notice telling him the delinquent bill was now his responsibility by law as the owner of the property.
At that point, Burns told police Henderson came up with a plan to have Burns forge his brothers signature on a request for $450 in assistance from the Veterans Assistance Fund, since his brother qualified as a veteran.
Burns said he was at the Veterans Relief Fund office in Chehalis in February last year when he forged the document. Meanwhile, he said, Henderson was with him and on the phone with Centralia City Light trying to get the bill lowered.
Centralia Police previously investigated a code violation case at Hendersons 1414 Logan Street property. It had been posted as not fit for habitation and officers had been at the house on previous occasions and believed it was possibly a drug house, according to a Centralia Police report.
After interviewing Burns, Romesha and another tenant at the time, Donna Swift, Centralia police discovered Henderson was collecting rent from his tenants after he had declared bankruptcy in February 2010 and the residence had gone back to the Bank of America.
Additionally, according to Centralia Utilities records, Henderson signed to allow at least five different tenants that opened utilities accounts at the 1414 Logan Street address since Henderson filed bankruptcy in 2010.
The total amount of rent collected by Henderson is about $22,000, according to the investigation.
A fraud investigation started, but it was discovered that Bank of America never followed through with foreclosure paperwork, so Henderson was not in any violation for collecting the rent.
Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg said his department referred the case to the Chehalis Police Department last month after Burns presented the forgery and fraud claims.
In a taped interview with the Centralia Police Department on July 24, Burns described how Henderson allegedly forced him to forge his brothers signature.
He asked me where my brother was, and I said, Well, I dont know, I think hes in California, and he said, Well, Im going to eat this, Burns said, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle. So the threat was either I help take care of it or I move out.
Three months after the allegations took place, the two-story house at 1414 Logan Street burned down. A large plume of smoke could be seen from downtown Centralia after firefighters were called to the scene. Initial reports indicated that an explosion was heard in the area.