A former executive director of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce is charged with stealing nearly $18,000 from the chamber over about a three-year period, including $8,196 spent at the Red Wind and Tulalip casinos using a chamber credit card issued in her name.
Lacey Police Detective Bev Reinhold’s criminal investigation revealed that Jenny Thorsell had incurred more than $20,000 in gambling losses at Red Wind Casino as of November, court papers state. During an interview with Reinhold in November, “Thorsell admitted that she had a gambling problem but she and her husband were dealing with it,” court papers state.
Thorsell, 42, was charged Wednesday with one count of first-degree theft in Thurston County Superior Court. Her arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.
Thorsell, who was the chamber’s executive director for nearly eight years, resigned May 10. Chamber board President Jeff Powell said in May that the chamber grew during Thorsell’s tenure.
“It has been a successful venture, and it goes hand-in-hand with how the city has grown,” Powell said then.Powell reported Thorsell’s alleged thefts to the Lacey police in September, after the chamber’s board formed a finance committee that found irregularities involving Thorsell’s handling of funds, court papers state.
As executive director, Thorsell was responsible for managing “all fiscal and administrative functions associated with the operations of the Chamber of Commerce,” court papers state.
She was paid $3,917 a month and earned a commission for each member she recruited to join the chamber. A phone number for Thorsell could not be located Wednesday.
Lacey Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Farmer said he could not comment on the investigation.
According to court papers:
Thorsell’s alleged thefts fall into three broad categories: thefts using her chamber-issued credit card for business use; thefts that involved “Thorsell submitting duplicate paperwork to receive commissions, hence getting paid twice for the same business that joined”; and missing cash.
Thorsell is accused of using the credit card to purchase two airline tickets to Atlanta at a cost of $605 in October 2007.
While investigating allegations that Thorsell submitted duplicate paperwork to receive fraudulent commissions for businesses that joined the chamber, Reinhold discovered that at least two of the businesses never joined, she said.
The missing money involved the chamber receiving cash for functions, including an annual golf tournament and auction, and Thorsell not depositing all of the money.
During an interview with Lacey police in November, Thorsell was asked about the double commissions and commissions for businesses that did not join. She said “she didn’t realize she had already been paid for the commissions when she put in a second request for payment,” court papers state.
“As for the businesses that never joined, Thorsell said she thought that they had; however she said that she would not put in a request for her commission until after the money came from the business.”
Thorsell admitted using the credit card for personal purchases and cash withdrawals but said she thought she repaid the money. She denied using the credit card for travel to Atlanta.
“Thorsell did not have a plausible answer for the discrepancy in the cash deposits other than to say with the economy there was less cash coming in,” papers state.
Jeremy Pawloski: email@example.com