Woman who stole nearly $100K from local non-profit sentenced to three years

A Spokane Valley woman who admitted to stealing nearly $100,000 from a local non-profit was sentenced to three years on Thursday.

Michelle Ferrell was originally supposed to be sentenced in July, but the hearing was postponed.

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.

“The gift of giving and receiving, you don’t understand the impact of what we do until you’re truly out in homes and you meet people,” said Marta Harrington, outgoing executive director at Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels.

Harrington uncovered the fraud in 2018, a time when the organization was struggling for money.

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.

On top of her three-year sentence, Ferrell has been ordered to pay $111,000 in restitution.

In July, Ferrell asked 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.

Though prosecutors requested a two-year sentence, Judge Robert Whaley said in July he was leaning toward varying upward on the sentencing guideline of two years.

“It’s the end of a really hard chapter for our organization and it’s the beginning of a new one for so many people,” said Harrington. “Not fraud, not embezzlement, not bad deeds, but we need to get back to caring about people again.”

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