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Ex-Kootenai clerk pleads guilty

A former Kootenai County deputy clerk accused of embezzling $139,000 over 10 years pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of grand theft.

Sandra Martinson, 62, retired in November from her career with the county, which spanned more than three decades. The embezzlement is alleged to have occurred for 10 years, ending in October.

Because of Martinson’s long employment with Kootenai County, Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall is handling the case.

On Friday, before 1st District Judge Fred Gibler, Marshall and Fred Loats, Martinson’s attorney, presented a deal that included Martinson’s guilty plea. The parties also have agreed that Martinson will receive a suspended prison sentence and will serve supervised probation, Marshall said. Despite the suspended prison time, he said, Martinson could still serve up to one year in the county jail.

Neither the length of supervised probation nor the amount of restitution Martinson must pay to the county has been decided, Marshall said. Typically, grand theft is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Martinson declined to comment outside the courthouse.

Gibler set her sentencing for 10 a.m. Oct. 24.

County officials said in December that when Martinson retired, a routine review of her records revealed irregularities that led the county to suspect embezzlement. Former Commissioner Rick Currie said at the time that Idaho law allows the court to seek restitution through public retirement funds. When Martinson retired, she was earning $66,477 annually.

Martinson was accused of writing checks to herself from a county fund that only required one signature for withdrawals. After the embezzlement was discovered, county policies were changed to rectify that situation, former Clerk Dan English said at the time.

Though the county is audited annually, the account was among several not included in the audit because they didn’t have an impact on the budget, county officials said. The account Martinson was accused of embezzling from – the “District Court Clerk” account – was established to receive credit card payments for fines and fees, such as speeding tickets. Finance Director David McDowell said in December that account has been incorporated into the county’s budgeting system.

Police reports said Martinson wrote herself checks from the fund, then attempted to cover her tracks by whiting out her name with correction fluid and writing in names of vendors, saving copies instead of the cleared checks. Investigators found 212 checks written between 2000 and 2010 ranging from $300 to $950.