A judge sentenced a local woman to one year and three months in prison Tuesday for stealing over $90,000 combined from a local equestrian group and a local government agency where she was formerly employed.
Robin Chase, 47, had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft for stealing about $13,000 from the Washington Association of High School Equestrian Teams; and about $79,000 from her former employers at the Washington Association of County Officials, or WACO.
During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Chase's attorney, Geoffrey Cross of Tacoma, pleaded for a work release sentence, noting that his client suffers from manic depression and stage 4 cancer.
In handing down the prison sentence Tuesday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch noted that there are many people who suffer from serious illnesses, but that does not cause them to go out and commit financial crimes.
Chase was charged with stealing from her former employers at the Washington Association of County Officials in 2012. Her thefts from that organization included about $6,000 from the association's nonprofit scholarship fund, which is paid for by donations from county employees and elected officials.
Chase's theft from WACO was discovered by the Washington State Auditor's Office. The findings of that audit were released in 2012. Chase is responsible for an additional $10,000 in restitution for the cost to state to perform the audit, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson said.
Thompson said in court Tuesday that Chase's thefts allowed her to take "her daughter all up and down the coast to horse shows." He added that the thefts were perpetrated from a period covering about 2007 to 2012.
Beverly Matney, state chair of the Washington Association of High School Equestrian Teams, said in court Tuesday that Chase's thefts nearly crippled her organization, and affected children's ability to participate in equestrian events.
An audit found that Chase's unauthorized debit card transactions from the equestrian team association were used to purchase airline tickets on two occasions, for online testing services for her daughter and purchases from local retailers, court papers state.
Thompson said in court that he gave Chase about six months prior to sentencing to see if she could pay off more than the $10,000 in restitution she has already paid. If Chase paid a substantial amount of restitution, he said he was prepared to recommend work release, but that did not happen.
Thompson recommended a two-year prison sentence for Chase during Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
There was one sliver of good news during Tuesday's sentencing hearing - Monty Cobb, policy director for WACO, said his board had voted to give its half of the $10,000 in restitution that Chase had paid to the equestrian group. Cobb said WACO hopes to recoup its losses when Chase pays her court-ordered restitution, but in the meantime, it wanted to help the equestrian organization.
Matney's eyes welled up with tears and she hugged Cobb after he made the announcement.
"We are so grateful," Matney told Cobb.
Thompson said he was impressed. He added that Chase's thefts greatly damaged the equestrian organization's ability to function.
"That was a wonderful compassionate gesture," Thompson said of Cobb's announcement.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; firstname.lastname@example.org