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Police investigating former city employee for embezzlement

Bellevue Police claim the city's former recreation program coordinator admitted to embezzling more than $100,000 in government funds that were documented for children's sports T-shirts, but were actually used to resolve debt brought on by an addiction to gambling.

Heather Christoff worked for the city of Bellevue for 10 years before resigning from her position Jan. 16. She is alleged by police in an ongoing investigation of admitting to using city-issued credit cards belonging to both her subordinates and supervisors to make fictitious T-shirt purchases for children's sports and recreation programs.

According to an affidavit for search warrant filed Monday by a Bellevue Police fraud detective, an investigation began in November after the administrator for the city of Bellevue's Procurement Card (ProCard) Program identified inconsistencies with receipts received related to purchases through the Parks and Community Services Department.

Inconsistencies were founds on credit cards assigned to subordinates of Christoff and superiors, including the community services manager, administrative assistant and community relations coordinator. These included expenditures in 2012 double what were calculated for 2011 and more than $102,000 in the first 10 months of 2013.

Those increases were connected to 73 ProCard transactions with a PayPal account for “mysimplet,” a fictitious T-shirt company made up by Christoff, which totaled more than $100,000, according to the affidavit. None of the ProCards used were actually issued to Christoff.

Ted Mittelstaedt, the city's community services manager, told the detective he allowed Christoff to use his credit card when asked, but denied making 14 of the documented transactions with mysimplet. The administrative assistant and and community relations coordinator likewise stated they allowed Christoff to use their credit cards.

“They just assumed that she was making legitimate purchases with their credit cards,” the affidavit states.

Mittelstaedt also stated he didn't review the paperwork for the ProCard purchases that had reportedly been made by Christoff's subordinates as that was part of her responsibilities, according to the affidavit.

Mittelstaedt told the fraud detective Christoff had come to him in 2012 with a request to change T-shirt vendors. Police did determine more than 1,000 shirts were purchased from a legitimate vendor out of Seattle in 2013.

A search warrant served on PayPal found Christoff had changed the credit card statement associated with her account several times, with some made to look like they were associated with the legitimate company from which the city was purchasing its T-shirts.

Christoff allegedly admitted to embezzling money from the city by making ProCard payments to her PayPal mysimplet account and then transferring the money to a bank account belonging to a friend and subordinate, who claimed she thought Christoff was removing cash from her personal credit cards to hide her gambling debt. Records of her ProCard transactions show more than $39,000 charges from February to October of 2013.

According to timelines provided by the city and the affidavit, Christoff admitted to the embezzlement six days after resigning her position.

The city does not release information about ongoing investigations, but Interim City Manager Brad Miyake is providing this statement to media:

“We can confirm that there is an ongoing criminal investigation involving a former city employee for alleged theft of public funds that occurred between June 2012 and October 2013. The individual resigned on Jan. 16, 2014. Given that this is an ongoing investigation we are unable to confirm any additional details at this time.

“We take our responsibility of protecting the taxpayers' money very seriously and that is why we are actively pursuing the criminal investigation and restitution from the former employee.”

Click here to read the full affidavit.

 

 

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