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Former embezzler allegedly strikes again

South Kitsap resident Jennifer Kathleen Montague pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to eight counts of first-degree theft for allegedly embezzling $55,385.74 from her former employer, Port Orchard-based RV Associates.

This is not the first time Montague has been before a court on embezzlement charges, however.

In early 1995, Montague was convicted of embezzling more than $110,000 from her Vashon Island employer. She was sentenced to an undisclosed number of years in prison and was released in the late 1990s. Soon thereafter, she changed her name and moved to Kitsap County.

The Port Orchard Police Department had no idea of Montague’s record when they arrested her on Dec. 28. Montague’s felony history was discovered later.

Stephen Davis, general manager of RV Associates, contacted police the morning of Dec. 27 to report an internal theft. He said 12 accounts-payable checks, dated between September 2002 and December 2002, were found with Montague listed as the payee.

According to police records, Davis said the firm had brought in a company accountant to help Montague with her bookkeeping work. He said Montague had been getting more and more behind on her work since she was hired in July.

When the accountant arrived on Dec. 17, Davis said Montague appeared very nervous. Then, with no notice to her supervisors, Montague failed to show up at work the next morning. Davis said she was fired for her unexplained absence.

Several days later, he continued, the forged checks were found by the company accountant.

Davis said this is the the first case of embezzlement in RV Associates’ 23-year history. He would not go into details, but indicated the company has made changes to its checks-and-balances system to close the hole allegedly exploited by Montague.

“As with anything,when you find a fault in the system, you do some adjustments,” Davis said.

Davis also said Montague did undergo a background check before she was hired at the company. He said the independent firm contracted to do the check apparently missed Montague’s status as a convicted felon. Davis said that, depending on how the case turns out, RV Associates could look into the potential liability of the unnamed investigative firm that made the mistake.

When police went to Montague’s house to question her, she said she had a gambling problem and admitted to spending the missing money at casinos in the Tacoma area. She also said she forged the signature of company officials on the checks.

When officers searched Montague’s house, they found a check stub with numerous practice signatures all over it.

Other check stubs from RV Associates were also found in the house.

Montague was booked for 11 counts of forgery, 11 counts of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree theft. Currently, the state is only choosing to press eight of the total 23 charges.

First-degree theft is a class-B felony, punishable by a maximum 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. So far, Montague has not been offered a plea bargain.

Montague’s omnibus hearing is scheduled for Jan. 23. Her trial is slated for Feb. 18.

Montague remains in custody with bail set at $50,000.

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