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Former Country Store bookkeeper charged with stealing from business

By NATALIE MARTIN

A former employee of The Country Store and Farm has been charged with theft for allegedly embezzling more than $30,000 from the business over two years.

Donna Marie Knowles, 64, was charged with 24 counts of theft in King County Superior Court on July 14. According to court documents, the alleged thefts occurred between January 2011 and December 2012, when Knowles was an employee and bookkeeper at The Country Store.

Knowles allegedly issued herself checks totaling more than $33,000 from The Country Store’s business account and the personal account of Vy Biel, the store’s owner.

The thefts were discovered after Vy Biel’s son Mike began managing the store due to Vy’s declining health, according to charging papers. Mike hired an accounting firm to review the store’s books, and the discrepancies were found.

The financial audit also uncovered charges on the business’s credit card totaling nearly $6,000 that Vy did not recall making and more than $11,000 in missing funds from the shipping portion of the businesses, which has a separate account. It is not clear whether charges resulted from those missing funds.

According to charging papers, Knowles admitted to some of the thefts and denied others when interviewed by Detective Debby Schmitz with the King County Sheriff’s Office. Schmitz wrote that Knowles said she was aware of Vy Biel’s declining health. Knowles said she felt she was “owed some of the money as she was putting so much time and energy into helping Vy run the business,” Schmitz wrote. Knowles also admitted to having financial problems and needing the money.

According to Schmitz, Knowles also said she was sorry and has already paid $5,000 to the business’s insurance company.

Knowles, who spoke to The Beachcomber on Monday, said she had not stolen from the store or Vy Biel and denied admitting to the thefts. She also denied paying any money to the insurance company.

Knowles said the checks she wrote to herself were paychecks.

“I’m not guilty. That’s for sure,” she said.

Mike Biel declined to comment on the charges.

Knowles is the former owner of Island Variety, which closed several years ago. According to court documents, she also operated the business Island Bookkeeping.

Her arraignment, when she will enter a plea, is scheduled for Monday, July 28.

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