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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Silverwood embezzler sentenced to three years in prison and must repay $160,000

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 8, 2020

Theme park enthusiasts ride Panic Plunge at Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho in this picture from 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Theme park enthusiasts ride Panic Plunge at Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho in this picture from 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Silverwood Theme Park’s former top financial official has been sentenced to three years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the amusement park over a 10-year period.

Former Chief Financial Officer Christopher A. Wyatt also was ordered during his sentencing Tuesday to pay more than $160,000 in restitution.

The 43-year-old Wyatt was indicted with former accounting manager Melissa K. Foeller, 44.

As payroll accountant, Foeller was thought to have embezzled more than $500,000. Combined, the two likely embezzled at least $800,000, according to court records in Kootenai County.

Foeller received a three-year prison sentence in August after pleading guilty to two counts of grand theft and one count of income tax evasion.

Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh said the sentence was appropriate, according to court transcripts.

“Employer trusted him. It is a family business. He stole from them and he deserves to be punished,” the transcript reads.

Wyatt’s attorney, James Siebe, argued Wyatt’s theft was less severe than Foeller’s.

He also noted Wyatt’s wife had cancer and Silverwood owners gave Wyatt advances to help pay for her treatment. After Wyatt’s wife died in 2015, he struggled with a drinking problem, according to the transcripts.

“This case drew more on laziness and ignorance, a lot different than someone who tried to manipulate the system as Ms. Foeller did,” Siebe said.

When handing down the sentence, Judge Scott Wayman said, “Your offense took place over a long period of time. It was a violation of trust … this was a huge theft.”

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