January 15, 2011 in City

Police: Bad checks easy to spot

County official used correction fluid to hide thefts, detectives say
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A former Kootenai County chief deputy clerk accused of stealing nearly $140,000 over 10 years used correction fluid to try to cover her crimes, a police report alleges.

Detectives easily spotted the county checks Sandra Kay Martinson, 62, deposited into her personal account – they say all were less than $1,000 and in even $5 increments, while legitimate checks were for larger, uneven amounts.

“Additionally, it should be pointed out that nearly all of the checks written to legitimate vendors appear to be hand-signed with Sandra Martinson’s name,” police wrote. “All of the checks written to Sandra appear to be signed with (then Kootenai County Clerk) Dan English’s signature stamp.”

The report, released in redacted form by Kootenai County officials on Friday, portrays the alleged embezzlement as long-term and blatant. Martinson, who has not been arrested, has declined to comment. Her lawyer, Fred Loats, has not returned phone calls.

Martinson is to appear in Kootenai County 1st District Court on a grand theft charge at a later date. Kootenai County officials asked Bonner County authorities to handle the case because of Martinson’s nearly 35-year employment history with the county.

The criminal probe began after she retired in November and county senior auditor Keith Taylor said he noticed several county checks deposited into her personal account when reviewing a District Court clerk bank account she managed.

Officials found copies of checks that had correction fluid covering Martinson’s name, “making it difficult to read, but still possible,” according to the report.

Martinson also covered her name with white correction fluid on bank statements and wrote in vendor names, the report alleges, then saved those copies instead of the cleared checks.

“This made it appear as though the checks Sandra wrote to herself were actually written to a valid vendor,” police wrote.

Taylor provided police with copies of checks Martinson wrote to herself from January 2004 to October 2010.

Police found at least one document that had “actual white-out type correction fluid over Sandra’s name and one can physically feel the raised surface,” police wrote.

Investigators found 212 checks written between 2000 and 2010 and ranging from $300 to $950.

English, who lost his re-election bid in November, said he and Martinson established that account in 1996 or 1997 to receive credit card payments of fines or fees, such as speeding tickets, according to previously published reports.

He said the money in the account then was distributed among agencies, including the court and the law enforcement agency that issued the ticket.

“Even the possibility that these allegations are true leaves me with a profound and deep sense of shock and violation,” English said when the investigation was announced in December.


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