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Bank employee charged with theft

A former employee of the Oak Harbor office of Pacific Northwest Bank is facing 28 criminal charges for embezzling nearly $28,000 from the bank’s customer accounts last year, according to court documents and a police report.

Jo Ann Lammers, 55, of Port Townsend, was charged in Island County Superior Court April 11 with seven counts of first-degree theft, 15 counts of second-degree theft, three counts of forgery, one count of obtaining a signature by deception or duress, and two counts of attempted theft in the second degree.

Lammers pleaded not guilty to the charges April 25. Her attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, did not return a phone call.

According to charging documents, Lammers could face more than four years in prison for each count of first-degree theft, if convicted.

Oak Harbor Police Detective Cedric Niiro wrote that the loss prevention manager at Pacific Northwest Bank reported to police in October that Lammers, a system administrator in the construction loan department, had been taking money from customer accounts and putting them into her personal account at another bank.

As system administrator, Lammers “had unlimited access to customer accounts,” Niiro wrote. Lammers used a number of methods “to embezzle funds from the construction loan department,” according to the police report. She took funds from customer accounts by cashier’s checks — forging a co-workers signature — and either deposited the money into her account or paid her own mortgage directly, the report states.

Moreover, Niiro wrote that when customers who called to complain about their accounts being short would speak to Lammers and she transferred funds from others customer accounts to cover up the thefts.

Lammers was finally caught, the reports states, when she went on a vacation and a customer called to complain about missing money. Ironically, a co-worker whose signature Lammers allegedly had been forging on cashier checks answered the call and immediately became suspicious.

According to Niiro’s report, bank officials fired Lammers before reporting the embezzlement to the police. When confronted by bank officials, Lammers said “she owed the IRS a large amount of money,” Niiro wrote.

Niiro wrote that he has identified about $27,700 is losses “incurred by Pacific Northwest Bank customers,” but he expects to discover ”thousands more in losses” as the investigation continues. Lammers is accused of stealing money from about 15 of the bank’s customers.

A Pacific Northwest Bank official declined to comment.

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