Former treasurer of Bellingham swim team charged with embezzling $200,000

A former treasurer of Bellingham Bay Swim Team was arrested last week for allegedly embezzling about $200,000 over the past six years.

Larry Eugene Bax was charged Dec. 23 in Whatcom County Superior Court with one count of first-degree theft. He remains in the Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Bax is accused of beginning to steal money within two months of being elected treasurer of the swim team in 2004, according to charging documents filed in court.

He allegedly wrote checks from the team's bank account to himself on a monthly basis, taking anywhere from $150 to $30,000 at a time, according to the documents.

An internal audit performed by the team found more than 80 checks had been used to take money from the team's account and deposit it into Bax's personal account.

He's also accused of getting a debit card in his name that withdrew about $30,000 from the team's account.

As of his arrest Dec. 22, the amount stolen was estimated at about $200,000, according to charging documents.

Crystal Tamcke King, president of the swim team’s board of directors, said the thefts were uncovered after a new treasurer was elected in August.

Team officials began reviewing the account’s transactions as part of the transition to the new treasurer, King said. Before that, Bax was the only person in charge of the team’s finances, she said.

“It wasn’t adding up,” King said. “We all trusted and believed in him. Nobody saw this coming. You hate to think you have to keep an eye on everybody.”

The team has about 150 swimmers and competes year-round; some swimmers compete at a national level, according to its website. King emphasized that the lost money won’t impact any of the team’s coaches or programs.

She said the team is changing its accounting practices, including having a committee of people in charge of its finances. It’s also redoing its bylaws and is working with an attorney to develop more ways to prevent thefts.

“It’s a horrible learning curve for us, obviously,” King said. “We’re double-checking everything. We’ll come out of this stronger.”

The thefts were reported to the Bellingham Police Department in December. After a detective contacted Bax about the thefts, he allegedly confessed to his wife, Lois, that he stole the money, according to charging documents.

Lois Bax told police that their family had undergone financial stress, including declaring bankruptcy in 2003 and losing their home to foreclosure.

Larry Bax is retired, according to a bankruptcy filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Western District in Seattle. He told his wife he had been investing money in currency and stock markets the past several years, according to charging documents.

He also told her that to deal with the theft, he would commit a robbery in which he would recover the amount he had stolen or he would be shot and killed by police. He also planned to escape arrest on the theft charges until the statute of limitations ran out, according to charging documents.