Sentencing hearing for woman who stole nearly $100,000 from local non-profit postponed

A Spokane Valley woman who admitted to stealing nearly $100,000 from a local non-profit was supposed to be sentenced Tuesday morning, but her hearing was continued to September.

Michelle Ferrell was a bookkeeper at Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February and admitted to spending thousands of dollars of operational money on herself between 2013 and 2018.

The non-profit provides nutritional meals and other items to those who are vulnerable in the Spokane community.

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Ferrell worked at Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels for about five years. During the initial investigation, Ferrell was believed to have stolen $88,000. A further investigation found she embezzled more than $97,000 and kept the money for herself.

Court documents state Ferrell spent the money on personal expenses, like the mortgage on her Spokane Valley home.

“Our whole organization exists to take care of people, to provide service to people who need help and to find out that somebody was taking advantage of that was pretty painful actually for everybody,” said Board Member Rick Waldt.

Judge Whaley’s decision was met with a groan from several former and current Meals on Wheels employees in the courtroom.

Here’s former employee Mark Laskowski, who worked alongside Ferrell for four years:

— Taylor Graham (@TaylorKXLY) July 30, 2019

Prosecutors are now requesting a two-year sentence for Ferrell and asked that she pay more than $135,000 in restitution. That includes payback for a fine that was imposed on the organization when they could not file accurate payroll information because of the embezzlement.

Ferrell is instead asking for a six-month sentence. She wrote a four-page letter to the judge and blamed a car accident she was in decades ago for her having to relearn things. She also said she suffers from memory issues and needs to help care for her husband who has health issues.

On Tuesday, Judge Robert Whaley said he wanted more time to consider new case information filed Monday by Ferrell’s lawyer. He said Ferrell may have suffered brain damage in the car crash and wants her to be seen by a doctor.

Whaley said Tuesday he is leaning toward varying upward on the sentencing guideline of two years.

Ferrell’s sentencing hearing will now take place on September 12 at 10 a.m.