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Ex-manager accused of stealing from disabled

SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2005

A former financial manager may face jail time after being accused of stealing thousands of dollars from people with mental disabilities.

Christina A. Davis, 35, was a financial manager for Midstream Inc., a Spokane company that provides in-home assistance to 26 people with developmental disabilities. Police believe she wrote checks from the accounts of Midstream clients and had two acquaintances cash them for her.

Spokane police Detective Kirk Kimberly said his investigation has not determined how many people had money stolen from their accounts. But, he said, it’s possible that all 26 clients were victims of theft.

“Every time I think I’ve seen it all, something new pops up,” said Kimberly, who investigates fraud.

As part of the services Midstream provides to its clients, the company helps manage their finances and has access to their personal accounts to ensure bills are paid.

More than 100 checks totaling more than $25,000 were cashed by the two people for Davis, according to court documents. Kimberly said it appears that the people who cashed the checks did not know about the scam.

One person who cashed checks for Davis at Moneytree received a note from Davis this month that asked him to tell investigators that he didn’t know her and that the checks were given to him by a former Midstream employee, according to court documents. The note, which was given to police, also said that she would compensate him for telling the story, the documents say.

Diane Knutson, president of Midstream, said the company will ensure that none of its clients loses any money as a result of the thefts.

Midstream had measures in place to prevent fraud, but Davis apparently worked around them, Knutson said.

Checks from client accounts are supposed to be signed by clients along with Knutson or one other Midstream employee, Knutson said. She believes that Davis got the checks cashed by forging signatures. Davis was put on leave from her job May 13, when problems came to light, Knutson said. She was fired six days later.

Davis, reached at her home Friday, referred questions to her attorney, who did not return a phone message Friday evening. Davis was booked into jail last week on a count of first-degree theft under the last name Orvis. She has since posted bail.

Kimberly said he expects more charges against Davis after an audit of client accounts is finished.

Midstream was warned by the state twice last year that it needed to strengthen its accounting procedures, said Sheldon Plumer, a quality assurance administrator for the state’s Residential Care Services.

“I believe with better accounting practices it would have been a lot harder to perpetrate,” Kimberly said.

When Midstream was up for state recertification last summer, Residential Care Services, the state agency that certifies such companies, determined that Midstream was not adequately monitoring its clients’ finances. Plumer said some receipts for client purchases were missing and client accounts were not being properly reconciled. As a result of the review, Midstream was certified for one year instead of two.

Midstream had not fixed all the problems when evaluators visited the company again in the fall, Plumer said.

“It was a repetition of the same types of problems,” Plumer said. “They had not completely implemented their plan of correction.”

Knutson admitted there were lapses but said Midstream tried to fix them by hiring temporary workers to reconcile clients’ accounts.

“We made every effort to make sure these things got done,” Knutson said. However, she added, “the funding that we receive from (the state) does not allow us to have a full-time person.”

Knutson said she recently has had two back surgeries.

“I have not been there to do the oversight I normally do,” she said.

Evaluators returned to Midstream in May and found that at least $2,000 of client money was unaccounted for. This time, the case was turned over to Adult Protective Services for investigation. That agency soon turned the case over to police.

Plumer said the case was not given to Adult Protective Services sooner because earlier problems seemed to be oversights.

“It wasn’t apparent that there was a misappropriation. It could have been accounted for by sloppy records keeping,” he said. “If we ever had any evidence or belief that there was misappropriation going on in November, we would have contacted APS right then.”

“They weren’t having these types of regulatory problems before,” Plumer said.


 

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