State charges Dennis Huston with $1.7 million theft

State charges Dennis Huston with $1.7 million theft
(Action News photo)
WASHINGTON ATTORNEY GENERAL NEWS RELEASE -- The Washington State Attorney General’s Office today charged Dennis Merle Huston of Pasco, Wash., with the theft of $1.7 million from Franklin County. The former Franklin County Public Works director for administration and accounting is accused of Theft in the First Degree, Money Laundering and Violation of the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act - Possession of Cocaine.

>>>Click here to read the official court documents filed Friday

From March 1990 to February 2012, state prosecutors say Huston fraudulently submitted invoices and payment requests for Critzer Equipment Company, then deposited the money into a company bank account. The county processed invoices and payments even after November 2001, when the business closed down. In some cases, Franklin County made two to three payments of $4,000 to $9,000 a month. When investigators notified the former owner of Critzer Equipment Company, he told them his company wasn’t involved in selling parts typically used by a county public works department.

An auditor discovered the possible fraud in January 2012 while reviewing the paperwork of Franklin County vendors. The Pasco Police Department started an investigation and obtained a search warrant for the bank records of the Critzer Equipment Company business account. A signature card showed Huston as the sole proprietor of Doyle BR/Critzer Equipment.

Investigators found numerous withdrawals from ATMs, payments to Huston’s credit card accounts using checks from the Doyle BR/Critzer bank account, and payments to Huston as cash. Investigators say Huston’s signature was on all the checks. At the end of January, when another check came through for approval, surveillance video showed Huston making a deposit at the bank holding the Critzer Equipment Company business account.

Officers arrested Huston on Feb. 2, 2012, at the Franklin County Public Works building. Investigators say he admitted to creating the Critzer Equipment Company vouchers on his office computer, forging the initials of others to indicate the vouchers had been approved and the parts received and submitting the vouchers. Huston told investigators he used the money to buy cocaine and gamble at a local casino.

Police found suspected cocaine among personal items taken from him upon his arrest and sent it to the State Patrol Crime Lab in Kennewick where testing confirmed the substance as cocaine. Huston admitted the cocaine was on his person at the time of the arrest.

Huston spent time in federal prison when the U.S. District Court for Montana convicted him in 1986 for a similar offense. The Franklin County Public Works Department hired Huston less than a year after he was released from prison.

Huston is scheduled to appear before Franklin County Superior Court for his initial appearance and arraignment at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 12. Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow will prosecute the case.