SHELTON — Former City of Shelton Finance Director Cinnamon Brown was arrested Wednesday on forgery, theft, financial fraud and electronic data theft of municipal money while she worked for the city.
The charges stem from Brown allegedly cashing her paychecks more than once, Police Chief Darrin Moody said.
Brown faces two counts of forgery, two counts of second-degree theft, a count of financial fraud and two counts of electronic data theft, Moody said.
One of the charges, her last paycheck, was discovered and the charges were reversed, totaling $2,426.57, the city reported.
City finance staff then conducted an internal audit from which two more fraudulent checks for Brown were discovered totaling $4,632.07, according to City Manager Ryan Wheaton. City staff is pursuing legal recourse to recover the money, he said.
The discovery triggered further investigation by Shelton Police and Brown was arrested with the assistance of Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.
Brown, a Grays Harbor County resident, was booked Wednesday in Mason County Jail, county records show.
City Manager Ryan Wheaton said the discovery was made after Brown was fired on Nov. 14, two months after Wheaton hired her. She was fired for poor job performance and the findings against her had not been discovered, Wheaton said.
The city’s outdated financial system is being revamped as a result of the criminal allegations against Brown.
“Unfortunately it left a liability that she was able to exploit while she was here,” Wheaton said of the city’s former financial system.
The city is also working on a direct deposit system for its employee paychecks, Wheaton said.
Moody explained how the alleged theft occurred.
“You take a picture of your check and it goes through deposit, and you still have that hard copy of the check,” he said.
The deposits were made in a short period of time to avoid detection, Moody said.
"Nonetheless," Moody said, “It’s not a very smart thing to do.”
Wheaton admitted he made a mistake in hiring Brown, his first employee appointment as city manager.
“This person was brought to us by a recruiting firm but I hired her,” Wheaton said.
After Brown left the city, Nola von Neudegg was hired to replace her.
“The City of Shelton is focused on rebuilding trust throughout the community,” Wheaton stated in a Thursday news release. “This trust begins by ensuring sound financial practices are in place.”
Wheaton said the staff was consulting with the Washington State Auditor’s Office to review all current city financial practices and processes “with a focus on identifying and correcting any potential internal control deficiencies.”
The city is also collaborating with its bank to implement electronic fraud detection, Wheaton said.