Cheryl C. Zwiefelhofer, the former treasurer of a parent-teacher association at Maple Grove primary and middle schools who was accused of embezzling almost $15,000, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to five of the original 18 theft-related charges brought against her.
Zwiefelhofer, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft and four counts of forgery. In exchange for her guilty plea, the prosecutor dropped the other 13 charges, which included second-, third- and first-degree theft and one more count of forgery.
According to court documents, the prosecuting attorney will recommend a sentence of 366 days in prison to the judge. Zwiefelhofer will be sentenced on Nov. 9. She is currently free on supervised release.
Zwiefelhofer is accused of embezzling money from the PTA between Aug. 31, 2011, and March of this year, when she resigned as treasurer.
According to court documents, the PTA president, Sabrina Manseau, contacted the Battle Ground Police Department March 21 and alerted officers to the alleged thefts. Manseau and the PTA secretary, Cheryl Garris, told police they believed Zwiefelhofer was stealing money from the PTA bank account and said they had noticed that several of the PTA bills had not been paid even though Zwiefelhofer reportedly paid the bills with her American Express card.
Zwiefelhofer reportedly had access to the PTA bank account from the end of July 2011 to the time of her resignation March 22, 2012.
Investigators looked into the matter and were able to link Zwiefelhofer to numerous incidences of missing money, according to court documents. According to the documents, some of the incidences included $1,529.49 from the Maple Grove Middle School Book Fair event, $671.07 from the Fall Festival/Fun-a-rama, at least $5,698.82 from the Winter Wonderland fundraiser and numerous others.
According to court documents, Zwiefelhofer also allegedly wrote reimbursement checks to herself for purchases she did not make and allegedly forged checks to herself using the PTA president’s name.
The total estimated loss to the PTA is approximately $14,704.
According to documents, Manseau also provided police with a statement from Bill Penrose, principal of Maple Grove Middle School, that lists the types of activities that the school had been unable to be a part of because of the lack of financial support from the PTA. Some of the examples included equipment and supplies for classrooms, field trips for the students, academic activities, and more.
On May 21, Zwielefhofer was questioned by police in the presence of her attorney, April Brinkman. According to the court documents, Zwiefelhofer first denied stealing any money from the PTA, claiming that she didn’t think the money was ever really raised in the first place and that the PTA board was just wrong in thinking that the money was missing.
After a break from questioning at the request of Zwiefelhofer’s attorney, Detective Sergeant Aaron Kanooth wrote in his report that he advised Zwiefelhofer that he had a chance to look at the records and there were some significant discrepancies between what was brought in on fundraisers and what was deposited.
“I told Zwiefelhofer again that I have seen her bank statements and knew she had financial problems and if that was why she took the money then we could deal with that,” Kanooth wrote in his report.
After another short break, according to court documents, Zwiefelhofer admitted to stealing the money on numerous occasions and committing the forgeries. She told Kanooth she used the money for things like rent, utility bills, food, etc., and told him she had been having financial problems for a couple of years. She told Kanooth she had fallen behind on her utility bills and tried to catch up with the money she had taken from the PTA.
“Zwiefelhofer expressed remorse for the friendships she has lost because of her actions and the effect that it was going to have upon her children,” Kanooth wrote. “I reminded Zwiefelhofer that she was going to have some uncomfortable experiences, but that I thought people would be more willing to forgive her and get over the situation faster by her acknowledging what she had done and then fixing the problems she has caused as opposed to continuing to deny any fault or involvement.”