Sarah Coffelt pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, April 10. Prosecutors allege she embezzled $755,378 from William and Valerie Anders while employed as their bookkeeper.
Coffelt, a resident of Orcas Island, was charged with one count of wire fraud by the United States Attorney. She is not under arrest at this time and sentencing will be done on July 13. According to the charging documents, on Jan. 19, 2016, Coffelt transmitted via wire connection money from a Washington state Key Bank business account, owned by the Anders, to Oregon to make a payment for a bill owed by her personal business, Moon Glow Arts and Crafts.
Coffelt was originally charged with several thousand counts of wire fraud, according to a source involved in the case, but in a plea agreement for a lesser sentence, she pleaded guilty to one count that covered the entire embezzlement amount.
The Anders, who are being represented by Lawrence Engel of Bellevue, Washington, allege that Coffelt stole the money via credit cards, gas cards and bank transfers between her hiring in 2003 and termination in 2016.
William is a retired United States Air Force Major General and one of the first astronauts to travel to the moon. He and his wife lived on Orcas from 1993 to early 2016, when they moved to Anacortes.
Coffelt was hired as a bookkeeper for the Anders’ business entity, Apogee Flight, Inc., which owns hangars and aircraft. The business is a major financial provider of the nonprofit Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington, Washington. She did the payroll for the household, herself and employees at the museum and paid the bills for the Anders’ personal airplanes, hangars, boats and other businesses and family LLCs in their name.
The charging documents allege that Coffelt, who had access to the Anders’ personal and business banking accounts, “knowingly devised a scheme … to defraud her employers and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.”
The documents also stated that “…Coffelt would pay Apogee bills and payroll but would appropriate most of the funds for her personal expenses, for gifts for and expenses for her family and friends, and for stock and operating expenses of her business…”
The documents also stated that Coffelt used an Apogee Mastercard to pay for more than 1,500 orders placed with Amazon and other companies to purchase merchandise and products for her personal use and for her business.
The case originally went to the San Juan County Superior Court in July 2016. The San Juan County Sheriff’s office then referred the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.