Crime

Former director of Tillicum Community Center pleads not guilty to theft charges

Staff writerMay 23, 2014 

LkTillicum

Karen Priest is pictured in her office on April 30, 2014.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER — Staff photographer Buy Photo

A Pierce County judge on Friday allowed the former executive director of the Tillicum Community Center to remain out of jail while she fights charges she defrauded her credit card issuer out of thousands of dollars.

Karen Priest, 50, pleaded not guilty in Superior Court to two counts of false swearing and one count each of first-degree theft and second-degree theft.

Judge Phil Sorensen granted Priest's request to be released on her own recognizance when deputy prosecutor Lloyd Oaks did not object.

Priest is accused of running up nearly $15,000 in charges on her personal credit card, reporting that the charges were made by someone else without her knowledge and then seeking reimbursement from her bank, court records show.

Detectives found that the charges were for Facebook games and all traced back to Priest's computer at the community center, the records show.

Priest ran the center for seven years until her termination last week, which board President Bill Hubbard called a difficult decision because Priest "did an awful lot for the center and helped the community."

Her attorney, Donald Winskill, said in court Friday that his client "strongly contradicts" many of the allegations that form the basis of the charges.

"We have a lot to say about that," Winskill said. "It's our belief that someone else was doing this."

Priest told The News Tribune earlier this month that she believes a former employee of the community center made the alleged fraudulent charges on her card.

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