Stealing from Seattle garbage transfer stations was as easy as one-two-three, say King County prosecutors.
Charges were filed Friday against five former city employees who are accused of circumventing the billing computer by punching three buttons while a customer’s receipt was being printed.
With that simple maneuver, employees in the know could pocket up to $1,500 a weekend. The five Solid Waste Utility employees working at the North and South transfer stations stole almost $300,000 over two years, prosecutors charged.
Scale operators Penny Pedersen, 41, of Bellevue; Katherine Garman, 28, of West Seattle; Diane Gimenez, 40, of Kent; and Melvin Koerber, 43, and Christopher Boone, 24, both of Seattle, were charged with firstdegree theft and criminal conspiracy.
A fellow employee reported the thefts to city officials, who launched an investigation.
The five workers were fired in 1993. Officials said the delay in charges was due to the difficulty of estimating losses.
The employees, who earned about $11 to $12 an hour, or about $24,000 a year, allegedly shared their profits among themselves. The thefts took place between February 1991 and March 1993.
Koerber had been overheard bragging that he could pilfer $1,500 in a weekend using the “foolproof” scam, according to court papers.
“They were intelligent, they worked with the system, and they found a loophole in it,” said Nancy Glaser, director of the Seattle Solid Waste Utility.
Court papers also said Garman accepted $1,500 from the owner of a hauling firm to dump about 200 tons of roofing material with a high asbestos content, which was supposed to go to a hazardous waste site.
The owner dumped only 2 tons before Garman was transferred and returned most of his money, prosecutors said.
Following a report of the possible computer theft, utility chief Glaser called in the Seattle police, who began a video surveillance.
Glaser said the present computer system has theft safeguards.