Sequim VFW embezzler sentenced

PORT ANGELES — A woman who embezzled nearly $10,000 from the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post has been sentenced to 24 months of probation, ordered to enter chemical dependency treatment in Eastern Washington and required to pay back the money she stole.

Rischelle Heaton, who was charged with first-degree theft, 31 counts of forgery and two counts of bail jumping, pleaded guilty in December to first-degree theft, three counts of forgery and one count of bail jumping. All other counts were dismissed.

Heaton, 31, was sentenced in Clallam County Superior Court on Monday.

Heaton entered into the residential chemical dependency treatment-based alternative and is required to spend 24 months under state Department of Corrections supervision. She was released from jail so she could attend residential chemical dependency treatment at an inpatient facility in Eastern Washington for three to six months.

She also must pay $9,715 in restitution to First Federal bank and she was sentenced to three months in jail, but was given credit for time served.

Heaton was arrested in April 2017 for investigation of writing herself $9,715 in checks from the VFW from October 2016 through March 2017.

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.

Heaton, who was the VFW’s secretary, 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 said they found that 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.

Heaton said her drug use has “definitely stunted any success I have had and anything positive I had going for me in my life was demolished by my use,” according to court records.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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