Former Vancouver bookkeeper accused of stealing $500K

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A former bookkeeper of a national building trade magazine in Vancouver made her first appearance Wednesday on suspicion of embezzling more than $500,000 from the company.

Patricia L. Long, 59, appeared before Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard on suspicion of seven counts of first-degree theft, seven counts of forgery and seven counts of identity theft.

The judge set bail at $500,000 and appointed attorney Barry Brandenburg to represent her.

Long was arrested at her Vancouver home Tuesday following a 10-month investigation into her position at PNW Publishing, which ran BuilderNews Magazine, a building trade magazine that circulated throughout the United States. The Vancouver Police Department was alerted to the alleged embezzlement by a magazine employee, police said.

Vancouver police Sgt. Scott Creager said the loss to the company was more than $500,000, which Long is accused of pilfering over a period of five years. Creager said the investigation is ongoing and the exact monetary loss is still being determined.

The sole bookkeeper of the business, Long was asked to resign in July 2011, said Denise Curry-Rothwell, publisher of BuilderNews.

As staff attempted to rebound from the alleged thefts, Curry-Rothwell said her business no longer had the working capital to remain afloat. After publishing for 15 years, BuilderNews closed its doors at the end of last year, leaving the staff of nine without jobs.

“She put a lot of people out of work,” Curry-Rothwell said Wednesday. “She ought to be ashamed.”

Curry-Rothwell said she could not comment on the evidence in the case, citing the active investigation.

Still, she said she hopes the case will send a message to small business owners to take more of an active role in their own bookkeeping and be more vigilant.

“Do what you have to do,” she said. “You can’t just relinquish that (the bookkeeping) over because you don’t have the time.”

Long has no previous criminal history. She will be arraigned May 16.

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