Ex-PTA treasurer sentenced to prison for embezzlement

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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The former treasurer of a parent-teacher association at Maple Grove primary and middle schools was sentenced Friday to one year in prison for embezzling nearly $15,000 over about eight months.

Cheryl C. Zwiefelhofer, 37, of Battle Ground pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to first-degree theft and four counts of forgery.

She stole the money from the PTA between August 2011 and March of this year. The PTA president on March 21 alerted the Battle Ground Police Department to the alleged thefts. Prosecutors filed charges in July.

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

Before Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis imposed the sentence, two former officers of the PTA addressed the judge. Former PTA president Sabrina Manseau said the effect of the thefts were felt throughout the school by the children and parents.

Manseau said this wasn't a case of poor bookkeeping or another excuse. "I want to make it clear, this was no accident," she said. "This was deliberate."

Lisa Sofianos, the former vice president of primary school's PTA, said the thefts weren't intended for Zwiefelhofer to make ends as a single mother. Sofianos said Zwiefelhofer used the money for manicures, pedicures, flat-screen TVs and Lasik surgery.

Court records said Zwiefelhofer used the money to pay rent, utilities and gas. Her defense attorney, April Brinkman, denied Sofianos' claim.

"There's no evidence Cheryl was anything more than a single parent trying to support her family," Brinkman said.

When it was her turn to speak, Zwiefelhofer choked up. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I'm so sorry every day."

Lewis went with a 12-month sentence, the low end of the sentencing range, which was recommended by Vancouver City Prosecutor Kevin McClure and Brinkman.

Property crimes seldom result in prison time, which is where defendants serve any sentence of a year or more. Zwiefelhofer was initially charged with 13 other charges, including second-, third- and first-degree theft and an additional count of forgery. They were dismissed in exchange for her guilty plea.

Zwiefelhofer also was ordered to pay $14,704.65 in restitution.

"Hopefully, when you get out, you will be a productive member of society," the judge said.

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