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Embezzling bookkeeper who gambled away millions will go to prison

Crime Watch

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Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — A judge handed down strong words to a former bookkeeper who embezzled more than $2 million from the people who looked at her like a family member.

“You enjoyed it, you used it and the Ericksons paid for it,” District Judge Bruce Pickett told Charlotte Pottorff, 65, during her sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Pottorff began working as a bookkeeper for Val Erickson, the owner of Dura-Bilt, Dura-Bilt Transmission and A&D Investments, in 1999. According to court documents, Erickson suspects the embezzlement began when she started working for him.

Erickson recounted, in his statement given during the hearing, how he would often confide in Pottorff about the struggles his companies were having. He said he had to sell company vehicles, cut employee’s hours, cancel health care plans and even sell off two of his businesses at a price far below their actual value because of her bookkeeping.

“She watched us bleed and never ever let-up,” Erickson said on the stand.

Pottorff said she is sorry for what she did.

“You gave me a good job and you took me in and treated me like family and trusted me,” Pottorff said to the Ericksons during the hearing. “I betrayed that trust. I am responsible for the wrong I’ve done and the damage I have caused.”

Pottorff’s attorney told the judge, Pottorff has a gambling addiction. He said she would not be able to receive treatment for the addiction in prison.

Pottorff requested she be given probation so she could work and try to pay back to the Ericksons what she can.

“I’m doing counseling and I am getting therapy,” Pottorff said.

Pickett said he dealt with gambling addictions often while he was an attorney in Nevada. He said he believes Pottorff does have a gambling addiction.

“It’s very common for people to always feel like they can make the money back,” Pickett said during the hearing. “‘If I just have one more lucky night — if I can just take this money and win big.'”

He acknowledged those were things Pottorff talked about in her written version the crimes she committed. He said he believes she took responsibility for what she did by her account of the crimes and for pleading guilty during her first appearance in court.

“When you steal money like this, you start with smaller amounts … and it works and you keep stealing and it keeps growing.” Pickett said. “I look at the money that was taken year after year. It starts with the smaller amounts and it keeps getting bigger. One, I think to feed the addiction — but two, because you could get away with it.”

Pickett said despite seeing what the Ericksons were going through, how they had to sacrifice to keep their businesses alive, Pottorff continued to steal from them. He said she could have stopped at any time but chose not to.

Documents show Pottorff covered her tracks by making purchases for the company at a higher price than the items’ actual cost. She would then issue herself a check for the difference. She would issue these checks directly to herself or to bank accounts believed to be hers.

She was the only one who had control over issuing checks and balancing the business’ accounts.

According to court documents, Erickson discovered the theft after Pottorff retired from working for him.

Erickson hired Fraud Examiner Daniel Packard to conduct a forensic audit of his business accounts. According to court documents, Packard determined approximately $2,325,504.89 was misappropriated between the years of 2006 to 2017. According to court documents, during law enforcement’s investigation, they found significant portions of the stolen money were spent by Pottorff at gambling institutions in Idaho and Neva

Pottorff was sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison with six years fixed. She will not be charged a fine because Pickett said he wants all the money to go into paying restitution to the victims. She was ordered to pay $1,160,766.21 in restitution.

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