The Clearwood Community Association filed a civil complaint in Thurston County Superior Court Nov. 30 alleging its former bookkeeper embezzled nearly $300,000 and that the amount could in fact be …
The Clearwood Community Association filed a civil complaint in Thurston County Superior Court Nov. 30 alleging its former bookkeeper embezzled nearly $300,000 and that the amount could in fact be more.
The lawsuit against Dolanna K Burnett, her husband and their businesses, claims the bookkeeper wrote multiple checks to herself and covered it up in the accounting system dating back to 2014.
Burnett has a previous conviction in 2014 for theft, identity theft and forgery for making counterfeit refund checks totalling $17,000 while working for the Tacoma Health Department and depositing them into her personal account.
She was initially charged with nine separate counts, but in the end pleaded to three.
That information was discovered last summer and taken to the Clearwood Board of Directors, who stood by the decision to keep the bookkeeper at the time. Ongoing criticism prompted a majority of the board to resign and eventually Burnett herself resigned.
A letter dated Dec. 11 was sent out to members of the association from Clearwood’s attorney, Eric Lanza of Goldstein Law Office, notifying residents of the private community that the board had hired a forensic accountant and that while an investigation is still ongoing, there was “enough evidence to suspect the former employee of stealing several thousands of dollars from the association’s general account over the course of four years.”
The letter informed members that the case was being turned over to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and that a lawsuit was underway.
It also cautioned members who used the association’s credit card payment system to review their statements and report any suspicious transactions. The association also has insurance that should cover the losses.
In the lawsuit, Clearwood lists several suspect transactions and claims Burnett in 2016 wrote a check for more than $41,000 to her business, Lovolt Communications, Inc. Then deleted the transaction from QuickBooks and created a new, false entry using the same check number citing the check recipient as the Thurston County Auditor.
A handful of similar transactions are listed where Burnett allegedly cut a check to her private business then deleted and created false entries.
It also alleges that on at least five occasions between Jan. 3, 2016 and Aug. 12, 2016, she initiated debit transfers from Clearwood’s accounts to Capital One and at least five times used association accounts to make payments to Quicken Loans, which is the holder of her mortgage.
At the time of filing, the lawsuit alleges $261,353.32 was taken with that number expected to increase.
“Forensic auditors are still working to uncover additional fraudulent transfers that occurred during (Burnett’s) employment as (Clearwood’s) bookkeeper,” the lawsuit states.
A trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 5 at this time.
“As this case develops, the board will issue further updates to the membership,” the Dec. 11 letter states. “However, during the course of litigation, the board has been advised by law enforcement and legal counsel not to discuss the specific aspects of the case.”
“The board is confident that the coordinated efforts of law enforcement, the insurance companies and legal counsel will hold this individual accountable for breaching the trust of the association and its members.”
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