Waitsburg woman sentenced in theft from bank

Michelle M. Paul was ordered to serve on a work crew for stealing more than $9,000.

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WALLA WALLA -- A woman who stole more than $9,000 from the Eastgate branch of Community Bank last June was sentenced Monday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Michelle M. Paul, 37, of 810 Walnut St., Waitsburg, was ordered to serve 30 days on the Department of Corrections work crew.

In handing down the sentence, Judge John Lohrmann went along with a prosecution recommendation. Paul could have been sentenced to up to 60 days in jail under state guidelines, but a work-crew sentence is typical for a person with no criminal history who commits such a theft.

She also will have to repay the $9,145.13 she stole.

Paul apologized at Monday's hearing. Her attorney, Mike Hubbard, told Lohrmann that Paul had never been in any trouble of any kind and the crime was "a complete aberration."

Lohrmann advised Paul to get on with her life. "It happened once; hopefully it's never going to happen again."

Paul pleaded guilty April 4 to second-degree theft, which was reduced from an initial charge of first-degree theft.

Officials said Paul -- who was operations supervisor and a teller at the Community Bank branch -- "redeposited" four checks June 4 that had been presented by three customers and processed about two months earlier. Paul cashed the checks and pocketed the money, according to a Walla Walla police report filed in court.

The initial deposits, with some cash back requested by the customers, reportedly were made in April of last year. The checks should have been shredded 30 days after they initially were presented, but "were somehow kept in a separate place, known most likely only to Michele Paul," the police report says.

The theft, which occurred the last day the branch was open to the public, was discovered by the Federal Reserve Bank and Paul was fired June 22, according to officials.

She was not taken into custody pending the outcome of her case.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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