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Former city employee takes guilty plea in embezzlement case | Heather Christoff agrees to pay Bellevue $117,000 in restitution
Former city employee Heather Christoff pleaded guilty Wednesday to nine counts of second-degree theft in King County Superior Court, admitting to embezzling more than $117,000 from the city by falsifying charges made with municipal credit cards to her private bank account.
Christoff, 31, was charged in mid-May with 19 counts of second-degree theft, accepting a plea agreement on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the King County Prosecutor's Office agrees to drop 10 of the charges and recommend a sentence of 17 months in prison. Christoff also agreed to pay $117,410 in restitution to the city of Bellevue.
From October 2012 to October 2013 the former Bellevue employee used city-issued credit cards while in a supervisory role within the Bellevue Parks and Community Services Department to make charges for children's sports T-shirts to a PayPal account for a fake company she created. City staff noticed accounting irregularities in November and Christoff resigned in mid-January, after 10 years with the parks department.
Investigative documents filed with charges against Christoff state she used credit cards belonging to subordinates and her own supervisors — issued through the city of Bellevue's Procurement Card (ProCard) Program — to make 81 transactions to a PayPal account she created, totaling $118,042.
Police were notified about irregularities in expenses by the ProCard administrator in November going back to 2012. 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.
According to timelines provided by the city and the affidavit, Christoff admitted to the embezzlement six days after resigning her position. She allegedly told police she was embezzling the money to support her gambling habit.
Judge Helen Halpert will preside over Christoff's sentencing 2:45 p.m. Sept. 5 at the King County Courthouse.