PORT ANGELES — A 31-year-old woman accused of embezzling nearly $10,000 from the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars post is back in jail after missing a court date in February.
Rischelle Heaton, who is charged with first-degree theft, 31 counts of forgery and two counts of bail jumping — all felonies — was ordered held on $12,000 bail.
A warrant was issued for her arrest Feb. 1 when she missed her court appearance, according to court records. A few days later Clallam Public Defender withdrew as her attorney because of an “unwaivable conflict of interest.”
“I was in treatment when this warrant was issued which I was a little upset about,” Heaton said in court. “When I tried to contact the Public Defender’s office I was told I was no longer a client due to conflict of interest.”
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Johnson said prosecutors will need to decide whether to add a third bail jumping charge.
Heaton was arrested in April 2017 for allegedly 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.
Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer stopped Heaton before she said more as Heaton attempted to address her two bail jumping charges.
“We’re on the record and you’re admitting you committed felony charges,” Rohrer said. “If I don’t stop you from saying those things on the record …”
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 said.
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 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.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.