Accused fire district embezzler appears for charging

Surprising many who thought she had left the state, alleged embezzler Joan Marie Lutz appeared in court Monday morning to answer the charges against her.

Lutz is accused of embezzling more than $3,300 from Fire District 7 between April 2000 and October 2001. Lutz, who was fired by the district last November for her alleged crimes, pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery and second-degree theft.

The prosecution’s case hinges on single misappropriated check. The state auditor, during a routine audit of the district’s finances, discovered a $615 check that had been deposited in Lutz’s personal bank account even though the check was made out to the district. Following an in-depth investigation, an additional $2,788.14 was found to be missing.

The district suspects Lutz was responsible for the rest of the missing money, although the funds had been converted to cash and therefore left no trail.

“We couldn’t close the loop, but we think she probably did it,” said Fire Chief Mike Brown.

Forgery and second-degree theft are both punishable by a maximum of five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. Lutz has no prior criminal history in Kitsap County.

Lutz was released on personal recognizance. Her omnibus hearing has been set for Nov. 14 and her trial date is set for Jan. 6.

After Lutz was fired, the district stepped up accountability practices to close the loopholes through which Lutz had allegedly siphoned money. A replacement for Lutz was hired and the district has reported clean audits ever since.

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