She said she took the money for her gambling debt, but was very sorry.
Deborah Sheehan’s remorse was noted by Pierce County prosecutors but did not stop them from charging the 46-year-old woman with 27 counts of theft and forgery.
She has not been arraigned and is not in custody.
Prosecutors said Sheehan worked for nine years as a senior paralegal at a Tacoma-based law firm that handles workers compensation, personal injury and disability cases before she was caught in April 2012.
She is accused of stealing and cashing 89 checks intended for clients, totaling $234,845. Police said she also admitted to stealing thousands from her homeowners association.
“The defendant said that she knew that stealing was wrong but she tried to block it out,” charging papers state.
Police began investigating Sheehan in April 2012 after her bank called the law firm to alert them she had tried to deposit a check written out to someone else into her personal account.
The office manager discovered the check in question had been written to one of the law firm’s client as reimbursement for overpayment but the name was later changed to Sheehan’s.
Sheehan allegedly told police she would take the checks once they were mailed to the law firm and print her name on them.
Most of the checks were written as advance payments for settlements by the state Labor and Industries Office and private employers.
Prosecutors said Sheehan even opened a new account and forged a power of attorney form for a client so she could deposit checks more easily.
Sheehan’s husband used separate banking accounts and did not notice the substantial deposits, documents state.
Her reason for stealing is because “she feels stress at home and work,” according to charging papers. That led to gambling.
One of the theft counts filed against Sheehan is for stealing from the Taylor Pointe Home Owners Association, which she served as president in 2011 and 2012.
Documents indicate she wrote herself checks totaling $12,950 from the HOA account, writing on the check memo lines things like “new fence, block party,” “fx playground equipment” and “repairs and landscaping.”
The HOA treasurer told police the association never had a block party and none of the money Sheehan took was spent on HOA items.
Sheehan was caught in July 2012, three months after she was first interviewed by police, trying to remove an additional $700 from the HOA bank account. The teller refused to hand it over.