Former PTA treasurer accused of embezzling nearly $15K

Battle Ground woman pleads not guilty to 18 charges

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 31, 2012, 5:12 PM

 

The former treasurer of the parent-teacher association at Maple Grove primary and middle schools in Battle Ground is accused of embezzling nearly $15,000.

Cheryl C. Zwiefelhofer, 37, of Battle Ground made her first appearance Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of 18 charges: one count of first-degree theft, five counts of second-degree theft, five counts of forgery and seven counts of third-degree theft.

Zwiefelhofer pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Judge Barbara Johnson set trial for Oct. 15.

According to a court summons, prosecutors allege Zwiefelhofer stole the money from the PTA between August 2011 — about two months after she became treasurer — and March of this year, when she resigned.

The PTA president on March 21 alerted the Battle Ground Police Department to the alleged thefts, and officers then launched an investigation of Zwiefelhofer. The president said that she and the secretary had noticed that several of the association’s bills hadn’t been paid even though Zwiefelhofer was supposed to have paid the bills with her credit card, according to the court summons.

Investigators said in court documents that they found several events, including a book fair, fall festival and another fundraising event, in which Zwiefelhofer cashed checks to herself that she allegedly never fully reimbursed and also allegedly took money from the PTA’s cash till.

Investigators also linked Zwiefelhofer to $5,698 of money missing from a “Winter Wonderland” fundraiser, according to court documents.

In addition, Zwiefelhofer allegedly wrote reimbursement checks to herself for purchases she never made and allegedly forged checks to herself using the name of the PTA president, according to the court summons.

Detectives estimated the total loss to the PTA at $14,704.

When questioned by police on May 21, Zwiefelhofer, in the presence of her attorney, April Brinkman, initially denied stealing any money, according to court documents.

“Zwiefelhofer told me that she didn’t think the money was ever raised in the first place and that the PTA board was just wrong in thinking that the money was missing,” according to a declaration of criminal summons written by Detective Sgt. Aaron Kanooth.

After a break from questioning, however, Zwiefelhofer then admitted to stealing the money on several occasions and committing the forgeries, according to the summons.

She said she had been having financial difficulties and used the money to pay rent, utilities and gas. “Zwiefelhofer expressed remorse for the friendships she has lost because of her actions and the effect that it was going to have upon her children,” according to Kanooth’s report.

The PTA sent out a letter to parents and staff on May 30, alerting them to the investigation and informing them that “we are working diligently to implement changes, so our community can have confidence that PTA resources are being managed appropriately.”

Zwiefelhofer is free on supervised release.

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