A former Spokane County employee accused of stealing $1.38 million from the county pleaded guilty to theft on Monday.
Rhonda Sue Ackerman, 53, worked for Spokane County’s Risk Management Department when she defrauded the county between 2007 and 2016. She had been employed at the county since 2001.
Family and former co-workers of Ackerman’s were in attendance at the plea hearing on Monday.
Attorney Bryan Raymon, representing Ackerman, said there were plans to have her released under house surveillance before the holidays, so she could spend time with her family.
Additionally, Ackerman pleaded guilty to one other count of first-degree theft, trafficking in stolen property in the first degree and third-degree theft. The standard range of sentencing for first-degree theft is three to nine months.
According to the Washington state Attorney General’s Office, Ackerman filed fake claims on behalf of 45 different claimants and requested claim payments from her office. She directed the claimants, which included her grandmother, deceased father, daughter-in-law, family friends and her son’s friends, to cash the checks and deliver the bulk of the funds back to her.
The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office referred the case to the attorney general because the money was taken from the county and because Ackerman and several witnesses were former or current county employees.
The fraud was first made public in March 2019 when Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said that her office discovered discrepancies in August 2018. According to an affidavit, an internal review in 2018 discovered uncashed checks.
Ackerman was fired in May 2018 for “job abandonment after her employer learned that she had attended a weekend mud bogging event with her husband, even though she claimed to have been severely ill for a week,” the attorney general’s office said.
The county recovered the $1.38 million that was stolen through an insurance policy, except for $25,000 and $20,000 for an independent audit, county spokesman Jared Webley said.
The county also implemented new policies around its Risk Management Department in 2019 that included a “monthly documented review of all voucher requests and credit card payments for the preceding month,” among other controls.
Ackerman was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Sept. 23.
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