The former treasurer of Deer Park Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization is accused of stealing about $26,000 from the organization and spending the money on private vacations, airline tickets, online shopping and home utility bills.
Teesha M. Lutrick, 32, is accused of embezzling the money by forging signatures on checks and using a PTO debit card over the course of three years.
In a news release Wednesday, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said it has recommended two charges of first-degree theft and 19 counts of forgery, and requested a summons for Lutrick to appear in court. The prosecutor’s office had not filed those charges as of Wednesday afternoon.
The sheriff’s office said its investigation began in mid-October, when the school district’s resource deputy, Dan Dutton, met with Superintendent Travis Hanson and several PTO members, who relayed their suspicions about Lutrick.
Dutton examined the PTO’s bank records and found nearly $16,000 in suspicious debit card charges and ATM withdrawals made between September 2016 and September 2019. He also found 19 checks from the PTO, totaling more than $10,000, written to and endorsed by Lutrick, according to the sheriff’s office.
Confronted by Dutton, Lutrick admitted to stealing the money and said she wanted to take responsibility for her actions, according to the sheriff’s office. She said she initially stole because she “wanted to have better things” but later did so in order to pay her bills, according to the sheriff’s office.
In addition to vacations and airline tickets, Dutton found inappropriate expenditures to various companies, including Costco, Ace Hardware, Avista Utilities and Waste Management, according to the sheriff’s office.
Lutrick, who has no criminal record in Washington, was removed as treasurer of the PTO.
Embezzlement from parent-teacher organizations is a stunningly common occurrence. In the past two years, PTO leaders in Michigan, Arizona, California, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from their organizations. Citing the frequency of such crimes, the website PTO Today has published a guide for safeguarding funds.
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