By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Marie Barnett, 39, of Sequim allegedly wrote herself 19 unauthorized checks totaling $13,617 from the company checkbook and deposited them into her personal bank account, according to the police arrest narrative, filed after she was taken into custody and then released Thursday.
She allegedly wrote four additional checks for $4,900 to pay her landlord, police said.
Barnett is a former employee of the JACE The Real Estate Co. office in Sequim.
“It's a significant amount of money,” Sequim Detective Sgt. Sean Madison said of the combined $18,517.
“Any small company feels that.”
Barnett was interviewed, fingerprinted and released Thursday.
“We chose not to book her into jail,” Madison said.
“The crime is significant in the sense that it was a significant monetary loss to the business. I sympathize with that, but the fact is this is a nonviolent crime.”
Madison said the case was referred to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office for consideration of formal charges.
“We expect that the prosecutor will charge her at a later date,” he added.
First-degree theft is a Class B felony, and forgery is a Class C felony.
Eileen Schmitz, owner and co-founder of Jace The Real Estate Co., which has offices in Port Angeles and Sequim, discovered accounting errors June 5.
Barnett's employment was terminated immediately.
“I was absolutely sickened when I first discovered what had happened,” said Schmitz, who has been on a semi-leave of absence since her husband, Jace Schmitz, died in January 2012.
An insurance policy will cover only a small portion of the loss, she said.
“There's a shock wave going through my company right now,” Eileen Schmitz said Friday.
Schmitz said she had a good working relationship with Barnett, who started with the company in 2011.
“Marie was well-liked and trusted,” Schmitz said. “I had a wonderful relationship with her as an employer and employee.”
Co-founded by Jace Schmidt in 2004, JACE The Real Estate Co. has 17 licensed Realtors who work as independent contractors and three employees.
Schmitz thanked First Federal for helping her identify the unauthorized transactions.
“First Federal Savings was just really fantastic about helping to stop this,” she said.
“They gave me so much good advice about protecting my identity.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.