The former Walla Walla County undersheriff pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to stealing cash bail posted for county jail inmates.
Carole Lepiane, who was the undersheriff from 1998 to July 2009, stole more than $67,000 from the county over a five-year period in a "check for cash swap."
Lepiane pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Spokane to one count of theft from a federally funded local agency.
Federal prosecutors will recommend a 10-month sentence, with six months served in custody and four months in a residential re-entry center of a halfway house, according to court documents.
As part of the plea agreement, Lepiane also had to hand over $81,271 in restitution Thursday to her attorney to be in a trust account until sentencing.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 10 at the federal courthouse in Richland. She remains out of custody.
The theft investigation began in October 2009 by the Washington State Patrol at the request of then-Sheriff Mike Humphreys. The state Auditor's Office and FBI later became involved.
She was charged in federal court in September.
Court records show that Lepiane embezzled the cash that was posted for Walla Walla County jail inmates in cases outside of the county. The money should have gone into a sheriff's office trust account.
She used the money to make personal online shopping purchases and deposited it into her personal account.
To cover up the missing money, Lepiane used monthly profit checks that the sheriff's office received from Evercom, a company that manages the phone system for inmates.
The theft occurred at least 50 times between February 2004 and June 2009.
Lepiane's husband is College Place Police Chief Dennis Lepiane.
College Place Mayor Rick Newby told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin that the case is not expected to affect Chief Lepiane's job.
"Based on the investigation, it appears Mrs. Lepiane acted alone, and no allegations against others have been made," Newby said in a statement provided to the newspaper. "Chief Lepiane served our community with honor and integrity for many years, and I have every confidence he will continue to do so as we move forward."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org