Bookkeeper admits guilt in embezzlement case
Originally published March 16, 2011 at 3:59 p.m., updated March 17, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
WENATCHEE Former corporate bookkeeper Scott D. Brixey pleaded guilty Wednesday to identity theft and forgery, admitting he embezzled more than $250,000 from a Cashmere construction company via forged checks.
In a Chelan County Superior Court hearing where Judge John Bridges sentenced him to 45 months in jail, Brixey, 49, apologized to the owners and employees of Bethlehem Construction, where he worked for about six years while robbing its accounts.
“Through my crimes, I have lost everything of value,” Brixey said in a tremulous voice, reading from a handwritten statement.
Brixey pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree identity theft and six counts of forgery. The 45-month sentence is higher than the 33 to 43 months that would be standard for a repeat offender. In addition to jail time, he’ll be ordered to make financial restitution to his former employer.
Brixey was arrested in September 2010 after officials of Bethlehem Construction claimed he had stolen more than $250,000 by paying off his own credit card bills and loans with the company’s checks. He’d been hired in 2004 as a “job coster,” assigned to track project expenses and assist in bidding for contracts. As part of his work, he had access to a Bethlehem corporate signature stamp for signing checks.
His employers grew suspicious on Aug. 27, 2010, when Brixey received a call at the Bethlehem offices from a credit service and dodged it, pretending to be another employee. The credit service told Michael Addleman and his wife, Linda, it had received more than $80,000 in Bethlehem corporate checks toward Brixey’s own debts. A further check found more money had been transferred to two other personal finance companies, for a total of about $252,000.
Brixey did not arrive for work the following week, while Chelan County sheriff’s detectives were probing the theft; he was soon discovered to have checked into the mental health clinic at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
Brixey was at his home in East Wenatchee on Sept. 8 when sheriff’s deputies arrived with a search warrant. He has been held in Chelan County Regional Justice Center since his arrest that day.
It wasn’t Brixey’s first offense. In 2003 he pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree theft and four counts of third-degree theft for forging checks from his then-employer, Dolco Packaging. He was sentenced to a year in prison. That conviction was vacated in February 2010, after Brixey completed his jail term and paid back the stolen amount.
Police said Brixey was also convicted of fraud in 1984 in Spokane’s Federal District Court, in a case involving a U.S. Treasury check. The conviction is reflected in later Chelan County court documents, but specific information couldn’t be located in federal case files Wednesday.
Seeking leniency in sentencing, Chelan County Public Defender Keith Howard said Brixey was diagnosed with depression while in treatment at Sacred Heart. Brixey called himself an “approval addict,” basing his self-worth on what others thought of him and giving expensive gifts to win their admiration.
“This caused him to do things that were irrational, self-destructive and just plain wrong,” Howard said.
Chelan County Deputy Prosecutor Doug Shae pointed out the Addlemans hired Brixey despite his criminal history, trusting that he’d reformed.
“They gave him a good job, a job that paid well, and Mr. Brixey at least had an opportunity to repair some of what he’d done to his family (in the 2003 embezzlement),” Shae said. “But he didn’t do that. He’s a thief, and he continued to be a thief throughout.”
Bridges turned down a request to give Brixey a few days’ furlough before sentencing in order to help his family move out of their house, which must be liquidated to repay his stolen funds. He said Brixey “may not be trustworthy” in any promise to report for sentencing later.
Bridges told Brixey he’d put his family “in an untenable position of trying to cover for you and make up your debt to Bethlehem Construction Co.” Moreover, his acts probably soured the company on giving any future offender a second chance at work.
“Why would they?” Bridges said. “They gave you a chance. And that’s the real crime here.”
Bethlehem Construction launched a civil case Sept. 7 against Brixey and his wife, Julie, seeking a judgment of more than $252,000 to recoup the stolen funds, plus interest. Attorneys in that case last week said they were working toward a settlement.
Julie Brixey began divorce proceedings against her husband Sept. 9. They have been married for 29 years.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123
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