BEND, OR -- The criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement from Central Oregon Irrigation District is closed before any charges could be filed.
Danielle Phillips was under investigation by the Deschutes County District Attorney's office for taking approximately $200,000 dollars in unauthorized pay, vacation leave, and improper credit card charges. D.A. John Hummel says COID referred the case to his office to investigate, "They believed an employee was committing theft, so I assigned my investigator to dig into the facts. We hadn't yet completed our investigation when the suspect, unfortunately, took her life by suicide." He tells KBND News, "Once a suspect passes away, the investigation is done, because on the criminal side, there can be no prosecution of somebody who is deceased."
The irrigation district sent a letter to customers last week, outlining the alleged crimes and the death of the lone suspect. COID says the thefts took place over a roughly four-year period, but Phillips was only under suspicion for the last six months of her employment, which ended in August. Hummel says embezzlement is always a serious allegation, "I did take this matter seriously because it alleged a violation of the public trust. Any time a government official or an employee of a government agency is alleged to have stolen money, they are stealing money from all of us; and government corruption is an allegation I take seriously. That's why I jumped in with both feet." But, in this case, he doesn't expect anyone will be tried for the crimes, "I never got to the point where I was ready to file charges. Our investigation was not done. So, we are like, two steps removed here, from guilt."
COID has submitted an insurance claim, and hopes the entirety of the loss will be covered.