Former Walla Walla County Undersheriff Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling Over $67,000 in Public Funds
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 08, 2013|
RICHLAND—Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Carole J. Lepiane, age 58, of College Place, Washington, was sentenced for embezzling public funds while working as the Walla Walla County undersheriff. Senior United States District Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Lepiane to a six-month term of imprisonment. Upon release from custody, Lepiane will be under court supervision for one year, with a condition of supervision that she must reside at a residential re-entry center for four months. In addition, Judge Van Sickle ordered Lepiane to pay $81,271 in restitution.
Lepiane pleaded guilty on October 11, 2012, to one count of theft from a federally funded local agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A). According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, Lepiane worked for Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office (WWCSO) for over 35 years. From 1998 to July 2009, she served as undersheriff. Her responsibilities included overseeing deposits of funds into the WWCSO bank accounts, such as cash funds received as bail for jail inmates. Also, the WWCSO received checks, which represented the proceeds from jail inmates’ use of the phone system. These funds were required to be deposited into an Inmate Welfare Fund and used to improve conditions for inmates at the Jail. From 2004 to June 2009, Lepiane operated a check for cash swap. She stole some of the cash bail money that was taken in by the Jail. She then inserted a check from the phone proceeds for the amount of cash bail stolen to maintain the total amount of the original deposit and hide the theft. As a result, the checks for the phone proceeds were not contributed to the Inmate Welfare Fund. Using this scheme, Lepiane stole from the fund on at least 50 separate occasions, taking $67,145 from Walla Walla County. She used the stolen funds to make numerous cash deposits into her personal bank account and also pay for personal online shopping purchases.
As part of the agreed resolution of this case, at sentencing Lepiane paid restitution in the amount of $81,271 to Walla Walla County. The restitution represents the $67,145 in stolen funds and approximately $14,000 to reimburse Walla Walla County for the cost of conducting an audit.
Michael C. Ormsby United States, the 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,” Mr. Ormsby also cautioned the public not to let Lepiane’s theft undermine their confidence in other dedicated public servants and the stellar work performed by the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office. United States Attorney Ormsby also recognized the cooperative attitude of the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office and the hard work conducted by the FBI, the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington State Auditor’s Office.
“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,” said Special Agent in Charge Laura Laughlin of the FBI Seattle Division. “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.”
This investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Washington State Patrol, with assistance from the Washington State Auditor’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Mary K. Dimke, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.