Officer stole from slain officers’ and union funds

LAKEWOOD, WA &#8211 A former Lakewood police officer pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling more than $150,000 from a fund for the children of four officers killed in November 2009.

Skeeter Timothy Manos, 35, also admitted to stealing more than $47,000 from the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) when he was treasurer of the union, beginning in May 2009 and lasting into 2011, according to a plea agreement.

Manos was fired in February after the Lakewood Police Department learned of the allegations and conducted its own investigation.

Three Lakewood police officers attended Friday’s change-of-plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, said Sgt. John Unfred, treasurer of the Lakewood Officers Charity, which collected money for the fund.

The revelation Manos also had stolen from the officers’ union was “a one-two punch,” Unfred said.

“I wanted him to see us, that we are watching this whole process, that we are seeking justice,” Unfred said. “He did steal money from us, and I wanted him to see that face to face.”

But Manos, he said, barely glanced at them.

The officers’ fund was created after Maurice Clemmons fatally shot police Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Gregory Richards as they sat in a coffee shop in Parkland on Nov. 29, 2009. Clemmons was killed by a Seattle police officer two days later.

Members of the officers’ families were also in court, Unfred said.

Two months after the officers were killed, Manos started skimming donations meant for the fund benefiting their children, he admitted in the plea agreement. Manos spent the money at Home Depot, REI and Costco, as well as a trip to Las Vegas, and withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from ATMs, according to federal prosecutors.

In total, Manos spent about $112,000 of the $150,000 he took from the slain officers’ fund over the course of a year, according to prosecutors.

Manos used the same tactic to embezzle money from the slain officers’ and union funds.

He created accounts that appeared to belong to the organizations. Manos told prosecutors he was the only one who withdrew money from the accounts, according to his plea agreement.

One of the accounts, which held the money intended for the slain officers’ fund, was also under the name of Brian Wurts, then head of LPIG. Manos told prosecutors Wurts didn’t know about the account.

Wurts is on paid administrative leave and resigned his LPIG position. He’s being investigated by the Police Department, “not necessarily related to the stolen money” but in connection with Manos, Lakewood police Chief Bret Farrar said.

A total of $3.2 million was collected on behalf of the slain officers, with about $300,000 of that placed in an account for families of future fallen officers.

Farrar said that despite Manos’ embezzlement, the slain officers’ children are being taken care of.

“The public was so generous, the money that got to where it was supposed to go was a sufficient amount to take care of their needs,” he said.

As part of his plea agreement, Manos has agreed to pay at least $112,000 to the Lakewood Officers Charity and $47,000 to LPIG.

Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of between 21 and 33 months in prison, according to the agreement, within the range of federal sentencing guidelines.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 15.

The recommended sentence was disappointing, Farrar said.

However, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan, who’s overseeing the case, has final discretion in Manos’ case and could sentence him up to 20 years in prison.

“We’re glad justice is being done,” Unfred said. “As heinous as this crime is, I don’t think any amount of jail time is sufficient.”

From The Seattle Times.

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