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News / Clark County News

Gun club treasurer sentenced in theft

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: October 20, 2016, 10:00pm

The former treasurer of Cowlitz County’s Wolverton Mountain Gun Club was sentenced Thursday to about four months in jail after he allegedly stole more than $95,000 from the club. His defense attorney argued, however, the amount is closer to $25,000.

Thomas G. Nelson, 68, of Vancouver pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to one count of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree identity theft. He initially faced several other charges, but they were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Nelson, a longtime member of the club, served as treasurer from 2007 to 2014, managing the account and paying bills, court records show. The nonprofit maintains a shooting range in Ariel, but the majority of its members live in Clark County and it conducts business and banking here, a probable cause affidavit states.

The affidavit indicates that Nelson stole a total of $95,477.74 from the club between November 2010 and July 2014. However, the prosecution said Thursday that the time frame was between January and December of 2011.

Nelson wrote more than 100 checks to himself, used the club’s debit card 750 times for personal use and made dozens of cash withdrawals, according to court documents. He used the club’s debit card at grocery stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants and auto parts stores, court records show.

The theft was discovered after club President Mark Rembowski received a notice from Umpqua Bank in July 2014 about the club’s account being overdrawn. Rembowski told authorities he was surprised because Nelson presented monthly reports to the board. When he reviewed bank records, however, he found that a majority of the transactions were unauthorized, personal expenditures made by Nelson, the affidavit states.

Nelson fabricated his reports to conceal his financial activity, according to court documents.

He told detectives that the club had OK’d his purchases and that on occasion, he may have accidentally used the debit card for personal purchases, court records said.

On Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Robinson argued that Nelson should serve 150 days in jail, because he violated a position of trust.

Rembowski and the club’s secretary both addressed the court and spoke about the impact the theft has had on the club and greater community. The club serves law enforcement officers, hunters, children’s groups and other programs.

Nelson’s defense attorney, Megan Peyton, said a forensic accountant found that Nelson actually stole about $16,000, and possibly, another $9,000. She argued that Nelson should serve 45 days in jail and 45 days on electronic home monitoring, in part because he has no criminal record and has health issues.

“I do ask for leniency, sir,” Nelson told Judge Gregory Gonzales. He said he was sorry for what happened but that he had fallen on hard times after losing his job.

Gonzales said he could not tell if Nelson was truly remorseful, before handing down his sentence. Nelson will surrender to the Clark County Jail today.

Restitution will be determined at a later date.