Clerk pleads guilty to theft

March 02, 2003 11:00 pm

The man accused of embezzling $200,000 from the Smith River Community Services District pleaded guilty to grand theft and burglary yesterday.

Robert Martin Walker, 33, of Crescent City, was arrested after reportedly forging the signatures of community service district boardmembers on checks.

In pleading guilty, Walker admitted to stealing more than $100,000, and Del Norte County District Attorney Mike Riese said the guilty plea presumes he will go to prison for a maximum of three years.

It's also expected that Walker will be ordered to pay restitution for the money he stole when he is sentenced at 2 p.m. March 27, Riese said.

"If we had gone to trial, The maximum would be four years," Riese said.

The thefts at the community services district happened between July 2, 2002 to Jan. 3, 2003.

Walker, who began working for the district in July 2001, served multiple functions at the office as part-time secretary, payroll clerk and office manager.

"We noticed a discrepancy in billing and in bank accounts and we informed the authorities," Board Chairman Jim Floyd said earlier this year.

Dohn Henion, the district's attorney, said the district knew something was wrong when Chetco Federal Credit Union called and said an employee had two paychecks with the same number on them.

"Apparently it started on July 25. There was a $725 discrepancy that our accountant inquired about," said Henion. "She told Rob about it and that was the last time she got to see him."

Henion said the district accountant made repeated attempts to straighten out discrepancies with Walker but was unable to meet with him. Because of communication problems, she sent a resignation letter to the district office in November. The resignation was never made known to the directors.

"That's part of the story," said Henion. "Nobody knew she had resigned."

Insurance will cover the approximately $200,000 that was drained from the accounts of the district.

"This is the best news to come out of this whole thing," said Henion. "We really wanted the best insurance coverage possible. Many banks are insured better, but most government agencies are self-insured and can lose it all with these sorts of things," Henion said.