Costco ex-employee embezzled $290,000 in 'outrageous' fraud, court says

KOMO News file photo

TACOMA, Wash. - A longtime Costco employee was sentenced to a year in prison after embezzling nearly $290,000 from the company and its customers, then using the loot to buy a luxury car and pay for personal expenses, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office and court records.

The employee, identified in U.S. District Court documents as Robin G. Cline, 54, of Puyallup, worked as an accounts receivable clerk at Costco's Fife store between 1996 and 2016.

During the last five years of her employment there, an FBI investigation found she had manipulated entries in business customer accounts to steal from both Costco and its customers, according to the court file.

Cline eventually pleaded guilty to wire fraud in June 2018, and she was was sentenced Monday. Judge Benjamin H. Settle of the U.S. District Court in Tacoma said her conduct was “outrageous,” and deserving of a significant sentence.

According to records filed in the case, the investigation revealed that Cline made false entries into customer accounts such as credits, refunds or charges. Cline then used these false entries to funnel money from Costco and Costco business customers into her bank accounts and a bank account associated with her son, court records show.

In all, Cline posted more than 290 false entries involving more than 100 customer accounts, according to the court file.

Costco refunded money to each customer who suffered a loss, and paid an extra 10 percent premium to each one.

Writing to the court, Costco executives said Cline had betrayed the trust the company placed in her and damaged its reputation with the customers.

Another executive noted that in order to hide her scheme, Cline made derogatory evaluations of co-workers indicating they could not learn the accounting systems – and in that way she protected her theft by keeping their eyes off the books, court records show. It was not until Cline was on an extended leave that the fraud was uncovered.

Cline has agreed to pay restitution of $289,975, according to court records.

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