Oregon Bookkeeper Accused of Theft, Faking Death

December 18, 2012

State police arrested a former Central Oregon bookkeeper accused of faking her death after embezzling more than $225,000 from an employer.

A Deschutes County grand jury indicted 36-year-old Christine Marie Harris on charges of aggravated theft and forgery, police said in a news release. She was taken into custody Friday in Prineville and booked into the county jail pending an initial court appearance. Bond was set at $50,000, records show.

Harris worked for UDI Corp. in Redmond. Company president Steve Kulin, who is legally blind, told The Oregonian that the alleged fraud started in 2009 and included roughly 200 checks.

The family-owned company distributes items such as sunglasses and flashlights that are sold in hardware stores across the United States, Kulin said.

Kulin said the company’s office mysteriously burned to the ground in January 2011. Then last Sept. 4, his company received a note from Harris’ email account that was purportedly written by Harris’ mother. It notified the company of Harris’ death.

The news, he said, left his family devastated.

Days later, however, a fill-in bookkeeper discovered a check drawn on the company’s account for more than $3,000. Harris had cashed the check, he said.

That same day, he said, Harris deactivated her Facebook page. “Which is hard to do,” Kulin pointed out, “if you’re dead.”

Kulin went to Oregon State Police on Sept. 9, after his company found at least $18,000 was missing.

Oregon State Police Detective Andrea Vaughn worked the case and determined that $227,000 had been stolen from the company, according to the news release. Vaughn arrested Harris.

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