Lepiane sentenced in embezzlement case

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Embezzlement case Timeline

Feb. 1, 1975 — Carole Lepiane begins work for Walla Walla County. According to Lucy Schwallie, county personnel/risk manager, records of Lepiane’s position or positions from this time are not available.

Jan. 1, 1987 — Lepiane appointed as Walla Walla County undersheriff. In that capacity, she is responsible for overseeing the civil aspects of the sheriff’s office, including receipt of funds from citizens, the County Jail and outside agencies.

Early 2004 to mid-2009 — Lepiane embezzles a total of $67,145.63 from Sheriff’s Office.

June 2009 — Lepiane leaves undersheriff’s position due to health reasons. Her retirement becomes official on Dec. 31 of that year.

October 2009 — Then-Sheriff Mike Humphreys requests the Washington State Patrol look into possible financial improprieties in his office.

August 2011 — Along with the WSP and the State Auditor’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation becomes involved in the probe.

Sept. 19, 2012 — Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, charges Lepiane with one count of theft from a federally funded local agency.

Sept. 26, 2012 — Appearing in U.S. District Court in Yakima, Lepiane pleads innocent and is released on her own recognizance.

Oct. 11, 2012 — At a change of plea hearing at federal court in Spokane, Lepiane pleads guilty to the charge of theft from a federally funded local agency.

Jan. 10, 2013 — Lepiane is sentenced.

CORRECTION: Carole Lepiane’s retirement from the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office became official on Dec. 31, 2010. Due to a reporter’s error, an incorrect year was cited on Page A1 on Thursday. Lepiane also began working for the Sheriff’s Office in 1972, but became a full-time employee in 1975. We regret the error.

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RICHLAND — A long-running embezzlement case at the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office ended late this morning with the sentencing of a former undersheriff.

At U.S. District Court in Richland, Carole Lepiane was sentenced to prison for stealing funds over a five-year period. Under the terms of a plea agreement, she will serve six months in a federal facility followed by four months in a halfway house.

In addition, she will be on supervised release for a year after leaving the halfway house. The 58-year-old Lepiane was not taken into custody after the 35-minute sentencing by Senior Judge Fred Van Sickle. She will be allowed to report to a detention facility at a later date.

Lepiane, dressed all in black and moving slowly, was accompanied by her attorney, Michael de Grasse.

In a brief statement, Lepiane told Van Sickle, “I am very sorry for any actions that I took that were detrimental to my colleagues ... and especially Sheriff Mike Humphreys.”

She added that she hoped to make amends for her crime.

Van Sickle said that clearly this was a case of embezzlement involving an abuse of trust and that the victims were inmates who were not in a position to know of the theft. Furthermore, he said, the investigation caused a great deal of stress to employees of the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office.

“You did cause some real difficulties for both people in the Sheriff’s Office and the community,” Van Sickle said.

She has waived her right to appeal.

Lepiane’s husband, College Place police Chief Dennis Lepiane, was not present in the courtroom.

In addition to the prison time, Lepiane was ordered to pay $81,271.63 in restitution to the county. This includes $67,145.63 stolen from the sheriff’s office and $14,126 paid by the county to the state Auditor’s Office as part of the investigation.

That money has already been paid into a trust account facilitated by de Grasse.

Lepiane pleaded guilty in October to one count of theft from a federally funded local agency. She was allowed to remain free on her own recognizance prior to today’s sentencing.

According to federal officials, Lepiane took cash posted for inmates’ bail, then covered up the thefts by substituting checks received from the phone company that operated the phone system used by inmates. The phone company checks were supposed to be deposited in the Jail Inmate Welfare fund, which is used to purchase educational and recreational supplies and equipment, as well as other items for the welfare of county inmates.

Officials said the thefts occurred on at least 50 occasions between approximately February 2004 to June of 2009. Lepiane deposited the money into her personal bank account or used it to pay for personal online shopping purchases.

In an emailed release today, Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said, ““It is a privilege to serve in law enforcement. Individuals who abuse that role and betray the public’s trust for their personal benefit will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.”

He also cautioned the public not to let Lepiane’s theft undermine their confidence in other public servants and the work performed by the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office.

Laura Laughlin, special agent-in-charge of the FBI Seattle Division, added: “The vast majority of law enforcement officials are honorable public servants who perform their duties with the utmost integrity, and, sometimes, at great personal cost.

“However, in those rare instances when these officials violate their duty to uphold the law and instead commit crimes themselves, the FBI will conduct a thorough, impartial investigation to preserve and restore public trust and confidence.”

In a statement issued in October, College Place Mayor Rick Newby said the case is not expected to affect Dennis Lepiane’s employment as the city’s police chief.

“Based on the investigation, it appears Ms. Lepiane acted alone and no allegations against others have been made,” Newby said. “Chief Lepiane has served our community with honor and integrity for many years and I have every confidence he will continue to do so as move forward.”

According to the documents filed in federal court, the county Prosecuting Attorney’s office has agreed that in exchange for Lepiane’s guilty plea it will not bring charges in state court regarding the thefts.

Comments

rduran 1 year, 7 months ago

WOW - six months for $67,145.63 --- what a bargain! Where can I sing up for that kind of pay?

4

InTheKnow 1 year, 7 months ago

Sing - or sign? And remember, the money was paid back, so she profited nothing.

1

Bigdog 1 year, 7 months ago

What about the victims - more than 50 of them and their families? Oh my money just disappeared - that is absolute rubbish!

0

Bigdog 1 year, 7 months ago

This is a joke - if it were anyone else they would have been charged 50 separate charges for each individual crime. But, as usual the standard rules do not apply to the sheriff's office. They would not have taken years to act, either had it been you or I. In fact the sheriff’s office has been known to go off half-cocked charging individuals when they lack a case. This sentence is an absolute injustice! why bother sentencing at all - this slick criminal has gotten away with murder.

1

barracuda 1 year, 7 months ago

Bigdog.... I dont remember that any articals stated that any of the Jailed inmates/families were out any money....Did we miss something? Where did you get that information? All I have read is the S.O. was out the money, and now restitution has been met and paid in full... PLUS the state reimbursed for its labor.... And concidering how the State Of WA. are going more and more soft of crimes... I am suprised......

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ImJustSayin 1 year, 7 months ago

It's reaks of stupidity to imply the Sheriff's Office had anything to do with the sentence handed down.

1

InTheKnow 1 year, 7 months ago

And just so you know, had she been charged in state court rather than federal court, the standard sentence for a first time offender is 0 - 90 days. And for those of you who have been misinformed by various media reports or personal comment, no inmates suffered the loss of anything because of this theft. Believe me, I am not trying to justify it in any way, and the money should definitely have been repaid, but at no time during the period in question did the Inmate Welfare Fund drop below tens of thousand of dollars. County budget and its expenditures are a matter of public record; ask the County Auditor to confirm the figures before making false allegations.

1

mytwocents 1 year, 7 months ago

The point is not that she paid it back.. I am glad she did, but the point remains that she STOLE MONEY ,SHE EMBEZZELED.Just because she paid it back, and apologized, does not mean she shouldn't be punished.If I had EMBEZZELED that amount from my employer, I doubt I would have received a six month sentence at club fed, and 4 months at a halfway house.. Which by the way,is really a waste of time...

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InTheKnow 1 year, 7 months ago

No argument there, Just wanted to point out that no one suffered during the time the money was gone. Also the sentence would have been even lighter - 0 to 90 days - for a first time offender charged by the state rather than the feds.

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greest 1 year, 7 months ago

While she was undersheriff, she threatened me with imprisonment if I would not waive a Constitutional right.

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barracuda 1 year, 7 months ago

If you have proof of wrong doing, contact a lawer! Otherwise this is a moot point now.... Maybe if there were others like yourself that would have said something, she might not have been able to rip off so much money.........

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wwnative 1 year, 5 months ago

I guess that it pays to be the wife of a police chief. If this was some nobody, they would be doing a whole lot worse than a halfway house. County service pay, and a husband whose pay must be reasonable points to nothing but greed and arrogance that they can do what they want.

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