Battle Ground woman gets 27 months for theft

She stole $280,000 from medical office where she worked

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

Published:

 

A Battle Ground woman who stole more than $280,000 from Salmon Creek Plastic Surgery was sentenced to 27 months in prison and was ordered to pay back the money.

Deborah Lynn Price, 61, pleaded guilty Thursday in Clark County Superior Court to eight counts of first-degree theft in connection with the yearslong embezzlement scheme.

As part of a plea deal, six counts of first-degree theft and four counts of second-degree theft were dismissed, court records show.

Price embezzled $281,906 over a 6 1/2 -year span, according to court documents.

“The defendant, however, will never be able to reimburse us for the sense of violation we will always feel over having been deceived by a person we once considered not just an employee, but our most cherished friend,” Dr. Virginia Huang wrote in a statement to the court.

In April 2015, Huang and Dr. Richard Green — who co-own the medical office at 13712 N.E. 10th Ave. — noticed discrepancies in their payroll. They found that Price, who was their office manager for eight years, had been paid substantially more than her agreed-upon salary, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

After questioning her, she abruptly stopped coming to work, the affidavit states.

A forensic accountant reviewed the discrepancies and found Price deleted and modified hundreds of sales receipts for cash payments received for medical procedures or other goods and services. The cash was never deposited into the business’s accounts, court records said.

Huang wrote in her statement to the court that they had “no clue the payroll discrepancies were just the tip of the iceberg.”

Price was a salaried employee who was supposed to earn $72,800 a year. However, the doctors discovered she had actually been paid more than $92,000 in 2014, according to the court document.

Price’s daughter also worked for the business and was overpaid; she only worked part time but was paid nearly $40,000 in 2014, the affidavit states.

Deputy Prosecutor Aaron Bartlett said investigators referred charges against Price’s daughter, but because of proof issues, the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not pursue the case.

Huang told detectives that she believes Price also stole merchandise from the business, court records said.

“All of us, the doctors, the staff, and our patients loved her. She was more than a key employee, she was family, and we trusted her implicitly with all aspects of our business,” Huang wrote in the statement. “Her actions placed a huge strain on our employees who sacrificed family obligations and worked tirelessly to make it appear to our patients that it was ‘business as usual’ when, in fact, it was anything but.”

Green told The Columbian in a phone interview that Price never stole from patients, just the business.

He said that they hoped Price would get more prison time. She faced a sentencing range of 22 to 29 months in prison.

“Both of us were surprised, in all honesty, that she received so little prison time, considering not only the size of the theft but the time period of which it took place,” he said. However, he said he understands that the judge had to work within the standard sentencing range.