Vancouver woman pleads guilty to stealing from the deaf

Sentence includes repayment, 20 days on work crew

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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The former treasurer of the Vancouver Association of the Deaf has pleaded guilty to embezzling thousands of dollars from the organization.

Beth M. Hamilton, 26, of Vancouver was sentenced Thursday to 20 days on a jail work crew by Clark County Superior Court Judge Scott Collier. She pleaded guilty to second-degree theft.

Hamilton also was ordered to pay $6,527 in restitution to the nonprofit organization — the amount she’s accused of stealing — and to have no contact with the association for five years.

According to court documents, Hamilton was appointed treasurer in May 2009 and given a bank card to access the organization’s donations and fundraising proceeds.

After board members discovered she made several questionable withdrawals, they confronted Hamilton. Initially denying the allegations, she then promised to pay the organization back.

Board members contacted Vancouver police in September 2010.

Hamilton, who is hearing-impaired, was questioned by a police officer by reading and typing answers on a computer. She admitted to the officer that she had stolen between $3,000 and $4,000 from the organization and said she would pay the money back, according to court records.

The Vancouver Association of the Deaf, which emerged three years ago from the former Fort Vancouver Association of the Deaf, aims to bring together and assist hearing-impaired people in Clark County. Its primary sources of money are fundraisers and independent donations, according to court records.

In a victim impact statement, Shane Yerkes, president of the association, said the organization had to start nearly from scratch after the embezzlement.

“Once we found out our money was gone, it was devastating news,” Yerkes wrote. “There’s almost nothing left in the account.”

“We want justice,” he added.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.