Patricia Hart, the former bookkeeper of Oleson General Dentistry, found herself in court Jan. 25 facing charges of aggravated theft for allegedly stealing upwards of $300,000 from the business over the course of eight years. Patricia A. Hart, 67, could face up to 10 years in Washington prison plus fines, restitution and assessments if she is found guilty of the crime. According to a probable cause affidavit, Hart not only worked for Hoodsport dentist Brian Oleson, but also was considered a close family friend for more than 33 years. The affidavit alleges that Patricia Hart used her position of trust to write checks to herself over the course of almost a decade and then deposit the checks into her personal accounts at Columbia State Bank and School Employees Credit Union in Hoodsport. "This was committed by a person who was in a position of trust and who abused their trust,"
Mason County Prosecutor Michael Dorcy said in an interview with the Journal. Oleson told the police investigators that he became suspicious about the books last year after an independent broker who sells dentistry businesses told him to get an audit. After a private investigation, Oleson confronted Hart over the missing funds and she admitted to the embezzlement. According to the affidavit, Patricia Hart told Oleson that the money went to "help with college costs for the (her) son, weddings and things for the older son." Hart became more emboldened and brash as the embezzlement drug on throughout the years. According to the document, Hart listed the checks as bill payments with her name listed as the beneficiary. She then would list the name of companies related to dentistry to cover her tracks. In 2007, there were 14 transactions, totaling $12,163.07. Each year, other than 2008, the number of transactions and the corresponding amount of money increased. In 2014, Hart made 72 transactions, totaling $67,970.30, according to the affidavit. Oleson told investigators that his business had been sinking for years and he did not know why and that he has not collected a paycheck in two years to keep the practice in business. He also was forced to use his savings and sell his family farm to personally stay afloat.
During the time Oleson was losing money, Patricia Hart used the stolen funds to pay for her youngest son's college education. In 2013, bank records show Hart transferring $15,010 to her son's bank account. Over the next two years, she would transfer another $34,637.99 into his account. The son's involvement in the case is unclear. As of Tuesday, he was not charged with any crimes in Mason County Superior Court. As well as being Oleson's bookkeeper, Patricia Hart previously served as a Mason County Fire District Fire District 1 commissioner. The embezzlement is not first that totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dorcy said, and is not as rare as you would think.
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