by: Joanna Small Updated:BELLEVUE, Wash. —
A former Bellevue parks employee broke down in tears Wednesday as she pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from the city.
Heather Christoff barely spoke in the King County courtroom Wednesday but she answered Judge Bruce Heller’s questions, including: "To nine counts of theft in the second degree how do you plea?"
"Guilty,” Christoff replied.
Police say Christoff set up a phony T-shirt business and made more than $117,000 in bogus sports uniform purchases, depositing the money in another employee's personal bank account. The employee then withdrew cash for Christoff.
Margi Poyer's teenage grandson has a summer job with the parks department and when we told her what happened she was furious.
"You know, I think they should be strung up, I think it's terrible,” she said. “I don't know how they can take the money away from programs for kids because there's so few of them now anyway."
City officials were furious, too.
"We do at the city take very seriously the responsibility of protecting the taxpayer's dollars,” Bellevue City Manager Brad Miyake said.
He said Christoff resigned during the investigation last January and the city has a new system in place to prevent a similar incident from happening.
The state is recommending Christoff serve 17 months in prison but she won't be sentenced until October. Her attorney said she needs the extra time to pay back the entire sum she admitted she took.
The employee whose bank account Christoff used to hide the stolen funds claimed she didn't know about the crime and she was not charged.