A former accountant for Action Auto Services is accused of embezzling more than $64,000 from the Pasco company.
Priscilla Mendez claimed she used a majority of the money to cover extensive medical bills, but investigators reportedly found no payments in the history of the accounts.
Mendez, 34, of Pasco, has pleaded innocent in Franklin County Superior Court to one count of first-degree theft. Her trial is set for Oct. 29.
She has been charged under the Mendez name, though court documents state it is an alias for Priscilla Flores and she also used the last names of Gonzales and Gonzalez.
Owner Randy Dickenson filed a report Oct. 9 with Pasco police about alleged employee theft at the North Fourth Avenue business.
Dickenson said it came to his attention when there was a discrepancy between the money he had placed in a safe and the amount that Mendez actually deposited Oct. 7. He also discovered Mendez was using the company's checking account to pay her own personal utility bills, and an initial scan of his accounts put the loss in the tens of thousands, court documents said.
Mendez, during an Oct. 15 meeting with Pasco Detective Sean Granger, admitted pocketing an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 without permission, documents said. She alleged all of it was for her medical bills with a Tri-City hospital.
Mendez was released after the interview while the investigation continued.
The company accountant was the only person, aside from Dickenson, who had access to the bank accounts and records.
Mendez's job included paying Action's utility bills, but she would add the amount of an outstanding balance on her own utility bills to the company payments by writing her account numbers in the check stub's itemization section, court documents said.
Action Auto Services hired an independent auditor to review the books. The audit revealed that Mendez was depositing smaller amounts of cash than was actually received, and altering deposit slips to cover the differences, or keeping the cash for herself and creating a deposit slip to make it appear the money was added to a company account, documents said.
It also found that Mendez would add an itemized payment to her own paycheck labeled "Reimbursement," when it was never authorized by the company.
The auditor reviewed 2013 records and put the loss at $64,359, which included money paid by the company to Mendez's personal utility accounts, court documents said. However, Dickenson told investigators that Mendez had been working with his company since 2012 and he'd noticed some money also missing in that year.
Granger noted that he checked Mendez's medical records and while she does have significant outstanding balances on bills, she has never made any payments toward them.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; email@example.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer