By Manuel Valdes
SEATTLE — A Lakewood police officer was charged with embezzling more than $120,000 from a fund for families of four colleagues who were shot to death while on duty then spending some of the money on trips to Las Vegas, the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday.
Officer Skeeter Timothy Manos also is accused of making purchases of several thousand dollars at Costco and Home Depot with the money.
"This is a sad day for our community," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement. "These acts betrayed the memory of our fallen heroes, their families, fellow officers and all who supported the fund."
Manos, 34, of Dupont, Wash., was arrested Wednesday without incident at Lakewood City Hall. He made his initial court appearance in federal court in Tacoma later in the day. Charging documents did not indicate that he had retained a lawyer.
The documents indicate that Manos began scheming to divert the money and opened a hidden bank account on Jan. 19, 2010 — just seven weeks after the Nov. 29, 2009 shooting.
"Stealing from the children of our fallen officers is disgraceful," added Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
The public contributed more than $3.2 million to the families of the four Lakewood officers who were shot to death by convict Maurice Clemmons at a coffee shop while they were beginning their shifts. Clemmons fled the scene, sparking a statewide manhunt that ended when a Seattle police officer shot and killed him two days later.
The criminal complaint alleges Manos bought plane tickets for himself and others for a trip to Las Vegas, where he withdrew more than $500 at the Bellagio casino in April 2010.
Over a year, Manos spent money from the hidden account, the records state. He went shopping at outdoor store REI, buying snowboard goggles and boots among many other items. He also made several trips to Home Depot and Costco, spending almost $6,000 in one day alone at the home improvement store, authorities say.
Manos' actions did not escape the eye of fellow officers, who began to grow suspicious about how donations had been handled.
Earlier this year, officer Jeremy Vahle sought answers from the union that represents officers then went to Bank of America and asked for all accounts associated with the guild. He eventually discovered the hidden account, documents state.
Lakewood Police Independent Guild president Brian Wurts did not immediately return emails seeking comment.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press