Former Snohomish Co. worker charged with theft

SEATTLE (AP) - A former worker in the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office has been charged with embezzlement, after investigators said he let defendants pay off their community service hours and then kept the money.

Frederick Bletson Jr. faces 42 counts of misappropriation of accounts by a public officer. The King County Prosecutor's Office is handling the case to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Bletson worked as a counselor handling cases of first-time offenders enrolled in a diversion program, by which they could have criminal charges dismissed if they completed community service or other requirements. Instead, investigators say he told them they could "buy out" their community service requirement by paying $10 per hour.

"Basically, what he was doing was funneling money to himself under the guise of paying off their community service hours," said Sgt. Ryan Dalberg of the Everett Police Department.

Prosecutors say he kept the money - about $14,000 of it.

The 60-year-old is expected to be arraigned on the charges early next month. He resigned in 2010.

Detectives say Bletson violated the trust of the very people he was supposed to help.

"They're trying to better themselves, they're trying to straighten their lives around and correct a mistake," Dalberg said. "They need to have the assurance that what they're doing is above board and honest and putting their lives in the right direction."

This isn't the first time Bletson has been in the news. Fourteen years ago he spoke out about his {A href=""}mother's murder in Portland. His brother was convicted in that case.

Attempts to contact Bletson have gone unanswered.