Local woman allegedly stole from high school equestrian organization

A 45-year-old woman already facing theft charges now faces additional charges that she stole more than $12,000 from the Thurston County chapter of the Washington Association of High School Equestrian Teams while acting as the treasurer for the organization.

Earlier, Robin Chase had been charged with first-degree theft for allegedly taking more than $73,000 from her former employer at the Washington Association of County Officials.

Chase entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court on her new charge of first-degree theft. Chase is not in custody. Her attorney, Geoffrey Cross of Tacoma, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The investigation of Chase’s alleged theft from the equestrian group began in April 2012, when the the president of that organization reported it to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The president said that a check made out for the use of the Elma Fairgrounds had recently bounced. She added that the organization had recently learned that Chase faced a theft charge for allegedly stealing from the county officials group, and was concerned.

Chase was the treasurer for the local chapter of the equestrian organization at the time. An audit subsequently found unauthorized withdrawals by Chase from the organization’s accounts totaling $12,918.

The audit also found that Chase’s unauthorized debit card transactions from the equestrian team association were used to pay for airline tickets on two occasions, for online testing services for her daughter, and for various purchases from local retailers, court papers state.

Chase’s separate charge of stealing from the Washington Association of County Officials when she served as its former financial operations manager is pending. The group is an Olympia-based organization that provides legislative and training services to counties throughout Washington. Chase is accused in court papers of taking $73,086 from it over five years, including about $6,000 from the association’s nonprofit scholarship fund, which is paid for by donations from county employees and elected officials.

Chase’s alleged theft from the association was discovered during an investigation by the state Auditor’s Office. The findings of that audit were released last year.

According to court papers, after Chase was interviewed by Olympia police detectives about her alleged theft from the association, she began “tearing up.”

“The officers asked Chase to explain why she diverted and stole these funds. Chase … said she stole the money because she was going through chemotherapy for her cancer, because she was on prescription painkillers and because there was significant stress going on in her family,” court papers state.

Chase gave detectives a taped admission that she stole from the association by issuing 59 of its checks into her personal accounts, according to court papers.

Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson is asking for enhancements that would increase Chase’s jail or prison time if she is convicted of her theft charges.