Woodland woman accused of swindling $10,000

Wife of ex-fire chief allegedly posed as 75-year-old’s caregiver

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: December 28, 2011, 6:00 PM

 

The wife of a former Woodland fire chief and city council candidate faces several criminal charges after allegedly swindling more than $10,000 from a 75-year-old woman by falsely acting as her caregiver and her daughter, authorities said.

Woodland Police accuse Shari Brentin of assuming the identity of the woman’s daughter in order to cash a $5,000 check and allegedly conning the woman into believing Brentin’s cat had cancer. She allegedly told the woman the vet would only take cash for treatments and would put down the cat if payments were not made.

Brentin confessed to taking more than $10,000 from the alleged victim under the ruse that it was needed for vet bills, and then using $8,000 to pay off personal bills, police said.

Brentin was booked into jail Friday on suspicion of one count of first-degree theft, three counts of obtaining a signature by deception or duress and two counts of first-degree criminal impersonation. A Cowlitz County judge released Brentin on her own recognizance Tuesday after finding probable cause for the theft charge.

Shari Brentin is the wife of Anthony “Tony” Brentin, who lost his city council bid to Marshall Allen this fall.

Police became aware of Shari Brentin’s alleged deception Dec. 7, when a bank manager alerted them that the alleged victim had withdrawn $10,000 from the bank, after never withdrawing more than $100 at a time, court documents said. Brentin began accompanying the woman to the bank around the same time the large withdrawal happened, police said.

Brentin allegedly bilked the woman out of $10,000 between Nov. 16 and Dec. 7. The woman labeled Brentin a friend, not a caregiver or a relative, police said.

Police have confirmed Brentin has a cat, but it does not have a potentially fatal medical condition. She used two vets, both of which accepted cash, cashier’s checks and credit cards, police said.

Earlier money woes

This is not the first time the Brentin household has had money issues.

The Brentins were evicted in January from their three-bedroom home in Woodland for failing to make $1,400 monthly rent payments in successive months.

In October, a Cowlitz County Superior Court judge ordered Brentin’s husband to reimburse an Oregon couple, Brandan and Shana Stroh, for unpaid rent, utilities and other costs. Two days later, he erased the debt by writing a check for more than $4,800. Soon after, Tony Brentin told The Columbian the money came from savings and other arrangements he made.

Woodland Police Sgt. Robb Lipp declined to say Wednesday afternoon whether the money used to pay the Strohs was connected to the ongoing investigation.

“It’s still an active investigation,” Lipp said. “There’s the possibility of more arrests in this case.”

Lipp declined comment when asked if Tony Brentin was a suspect.

News of Shari Brentin’s arrest left Shana Stroh to wonder if she and her husband received stolen money.

“That’s pathetic,” Shana Stroh said of the alleged crime. “I’m sad for the 75-year-old, because we know how she’s feeling. We gave them our trust, and they threw it all away.”

Paul Van Baalen, a property manager for The SunWorld Group, also expressed shock about Shari Brentin’s arrest. Van Baalen cashed Tony Brentin’s cashier’s check on Oct. 13. He had previously had a $2,000 security deposit check from the couple bounce, he said.

Van Baalen said he believed when he cashed the check to pay the Strohs that Brentin had received the money from a relative, but now he’s not so sure.

The (Longview) Daily News contributed to this story.