A former employee of the Harbor Sanitary District is facing possible charges of embezzling $69,000 from the agency after authorities searched her Brookings home Thursday and found alleged evidence of the crime, according to the Curry County Sheriff’s Department.
During an interview with a sheriff’s detective, Debra Irene Wendt, 62, admitted to taking money and altering and concealing records from the district for several years, Sheriff John Bishop said in a press release issued on Friday.
She has not been arrested, but the case has been submitted to the Curry County District Attorney’s Office for review and possible filing of charges, Bishop said.
On Friday, Wendt admitted she took money from the district during a phone interview with the Pilot from her office at a local mortgage company.
“I took some money, but I disagree with the amount they said,” Wendt said.
She did not say how much money she took but said she did so because she was and still is having financial difficulties. She did not elaborate on what those difficulties are.
However, she said she is cooperating with authorities.
“I told them I would be more than willing to make restitution to the district,” Wendt said.
Authorities served a search warrant at the home of Wendt and her husband on Glenwood Drive Thursday afternoon. Investigators were seeking evidence of alleged crimes she committed while working as an office assistant at the Harbor Sanitary District. She resigned from the job in May after working there for nearly six years. Her job responsibilities included collecting payments and making deposits, and she was primarily responsible for keeping the books for the district.
Wendt said she was responsible for doing “one side of the books, while (district manager) Kelly Wilson did another side of the books.”
The district filed a report with authorities earlier this month claiming that an internal audit had revealed that $68,986 was missing, along with numerous accounting documents such as deposit slips and payment stubs.
During Thursday’s search of Wendt’s home, authorities found many of the missing documents, the sheriff said.
The Pilot’s attempts to reach District Manager Kelly Wilson on Friday were unsuccessful. However, district board member Don Koball said on Friday that he could not comment about the case.
“It’s still up in the air; no charges have been made so I can’t comment,” Koball said.
Bishop said Wendt was not arrested in part because of her medical conditions and that she was a low flight risk.
District Attorney Everett dial was unavailable for comment late Friday. However, Bishop said it is likely that Dial’s office will submit the evidence to a Grand Jury, which could convene within the next two weeks.
The sheriff has recommended that Wendt be charged with aggravated theft in the first degree, theft in the first degree and theft by deception.
“I’m confident that charges will be filed against her,” Bishop said.
On Friday, Wendt wasn’t sure what to do or what happens next.
“I called the DA’s office to find out more, and I’m waiting to hear back,” she said. “I guess I just have to wait and see what happens.”