May 24--Two former employees of Hopelink, a Bellevue charity that helps low-income or destitute families, children and seniors, have been accused of stealing nearly $100,000 worth of bus passes from the agency.
Manuel Almagro and Kimberly Beth Holmes were charged earlier this month after a nearly two-year investigation, first by Hopelink, and later by police. The two have each been charged with first-degree theft in King County Superior Court.
Almagro, 31, of Bellevue, and Holmes, 48, of Seattle, were working in Hopelink's Bellevue call center when they allegedly created fake-client accounts and altered existing client accounts to get access to the charity's bus passes, police Detective Kevin Kliewer wrote in his report. The two sold the passes and pocketed the profits from March 2009 until May 2010, according to police and prosecutors.
Kris Betker, spokeswoman for Hopelink, said in an email that the "losses were covered by our insurance and there was no impact to clients."
Almagro and Holmes are out of jail and scheduled to be arraigned next Wednesday, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office.
In the course of the lengthy investigation, police spoke with several people who each knew about parts of the scheme, according to charging documents.
Two of Almagro's former roommates told police that they believed he received 10 to 20 bus passes each month from Hopelink and that he sold them for up to $100 apiece, according to the documents. The roommates intercepted 15 passes that were mailed to Almagro and turned them in to Hopelink, Kliewer's report said.
Kliewer, who is no longer with the Police Department, did not say in his report why the men intercepted the passes.
Police also spoke with a North Seattle woman who said that Almagro contacted her in December 2010 when she advertised a room rental on Craigslist. Almagro didn't want to rent the room but instead asked if he could pay her $50 per month to have his mail delivered to her home, Kliewer's report said.
The woman said he received in the mail about 12 passes each month. She recognized the passes because she worked in a similar program at the state Department of Social and Health Services, charging paperwork said.
When Bellevue police arrested Almagro in April 2011, he tried to minimize his involvement and he threw the blame on Holmes, Kliewer wrote in his report. Almagro said that he only set up 15 false accounts, while Holmes set up nearly 300, the report said.
Almagro said that he sold passes on Craigslist and used prepaid cellphones to carry out the transactions, the report said.
When police contacted Holmes in April 2011, she said that she went along with Almagro's bus-pass scheme. She said that he paid her about $40 for every batch of bus passes she processed for him; a total of about $700, according to the charges.
Holmes was arrested the following month.
Hopelink is one of more than a dozen social-service agencies that have received funds from The Seattle Times' annual Fund For The Needy campaign.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.
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