Port Angeles woman charged with embezzling from Sequim VFW back in jail

Rischelle Lea Heaton

PORT ANGELES — A 30-year-old Port Angeles woman charged with embezzling nearly $10,000 from the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4760 is back in the Clallam County jail, now charged with bail jumping.

Rischelle Lea Heaton is charged with one count of first-degree theft, 31 counts of forgery, and was charged last week with one count of bail jumping after being arrested on a warrant issued in June. She is held on $5,000 bail.

She was arrested in April for allegedly writing herself $9,715 in checks from the VFW from October 2016 through March of this year.

Of that, $2,900 had come from the VFW’s Strand Veterans Relief Fund — which is not related to Clallam County’s Veterans Relief Fund — according to court records. That VFW fund is used to help veterans and their families in emergency situations.

In April, prosecutors asked the court to hold Heaton on $2,500 bail because she had a District Court warrant from 2015 and 13 failure-to-appears since 2005, but no bail was set at the time.

Under state law, someone can be charged with bail jumping if they have been released on court order but do not make a required appearance in court.

Court records say Heaton was trying to get into a long-term drug treatment program in June after being discharged early from Specialty Services, a drug treatment center in Port Angeles.

She phoned into court June 15, saying she was staying with a friend in Seattle because she was having trouble staying clean, records say.

Heaton did not appear in court June 29 and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was arrested Oct. 20 and charged Friday with bail jumping.

Heaton, who was the VFW’s secretary, allegedly forged the VFW’s quartermaster’s name on 32 checks to herself from October 2016 through March 2017, court records say.

The quartermaster told police he noticed money missing only after $2,900 had been transferred from the Veterans Relief Fund into the club account.

Bank staff provided police with copies of 32 checks with forged signatures. The bank manager pointed out to police that the signatures on all the checks were different from how the quartermaster actually signs his name.

Police obtained a search warrant and say they found checks were deposited into Heaton’s account in person at the bank, via remote deposit through the bank’s cellphone application and through ATM deposits.

During an interview with law enforcement, Heaton allegedly said she was facing financial stress, bills, foreclosure and unemployment; that her health was poor; and that she planned to pay the money back with her tax return.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.