Woman in Washington state admits stealing from veterans fund
By KRISTIN M. KRAEMER | Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) | Published: February 8, 2018
PASCO, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — A 60-year-old Pasco woman has admitted stealing from a veterans emergency fund by claiming she needed to cover back rent.
Patricia K. Davidson’s guilty plea came just days after she was arrested outside the Franklin County Auditor’s Office.
Davidson and Edward E. Reiner were stopped leaving the courthouse office last Friday after picking up a $250 check.
Investigators said it was the fourth check issued to Reiner in the apparent scam since May 2016.
It was during Davidson’s first appearance earlier this week in Franklin County District Court that she opted to plead to the gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft.
Judge Jerry Roach ordered her to serve six months in the county jail, with an additional 184 days suspended. He also fined her $50 and ordered to repay $250. Investigators initially identified her as Patricia Gable.
Reiner, 65, pleaded innocent to his own charge of third-degree theft. He was released from custody on his personal recognizance.
The scheme caught the attention of an auditor’s office employee when Reiner called about picking up the check. When Reiner was told he needed to bring some identification, he said he only had a prison ID, according to court documents.
Then, after noticing the check was marked “general delivery” to the Pasco Post Office, the employee alerted Auditor Matt Beaton.
Investigators spent two days looking into the alleged theft, then asked the auditor’s office to arrange a pick-up last Friday with Davidson and Reiner. Deputies were waiting there to arrest them.
The Veterans Assistance Fund reportedly was started by the Franklin County Commission in cooperation with local organizations, such as the VFW and American Legion. It is funded by a separate county tax that sets aside more than $100,000 each year, documents said.
The money is to help indigent veterans, their families or the families of veterans who have died with immediate emergency needs, such as food, utility bills, rent and burial costs.
Davidson’s husband was a Navy veteran. She was entitled to his veteran’s benefits after her husband’s death in a car crash in 2000.
Davidson filled out an application Jan. 18 saying she needed $250 to pay overdue rent. Reiner followed with a rental assistance form, claiming to be Davidson’s property manager and that he needed to collect her December 2017 rent, court documents said.
The manager at Loyalty Inn — where Davidson had been living for more than a year with a roommate — told detectives that Reiner was not an employee. The manager also advised that Davidson has not been late on her rent, showing them receipts for her payments.
American Legion staff also confirmed that Davidson’s rent voucher was authorized by committee members, and that she was told to take it to the auditor’s office to get a check.
Documents said there is some confusion between the county and American Legion on who follows up to determine if there’s a true need for help.
Reiner told detectives he completed the rental assistance form because Davidson owed him rent when she lived with him at the Airport Motel on North Fourth Avenue. He acknowledged receiving and cashing three previous checks for $250 in May 2016, and October and November 2017.