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Originally published Friday, July 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Former Bellevue museum official gets 2 years in prison

The former chief financial officer of the Bellevue Arts Museum, Janet Ellinger, was sentenced to nearly two years in prison Thursday for embezzlement.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The former chief financial officer of the Bellevue Arts Museum was sentenced to nearly two years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty in May to embezzling nearly $300,000.

Janet Ellinger, 54, also was ordered to pay $334,949 in restitution.

"There were a lot of reasons for taking the money" from the museum, Ellinger told Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, "but absolutely no excuse."

During the hearing at King County Superior Court in Seattle, the judge said he had considered various aspects of Ellinger's crimes and she apparently had led an exemplary life before the embezzlements, but he couldn't justify imposing a sentence outside the standard range — 22 to 29 months.

Ramsdell ordered Ellinger to serve 22 months starting Aug. 14.

The restitution includes attorney's fees and other costs. It was adjusted downward to reflect credits of $10,000 from the withholding of Ellinger's last museum paycheck among other things. Records showed Ellinger actually took $294,573 from the museum, court documents state.

Ellinger was charged with 38 counts of theft in November and pleaded guilty to eight of the counts in May; the other counts were dismissed.

Ramsdell said he did have one question: "Where, pray tell, did all that money go?"

Ellinger's attorney, Olaf Hansen, said the money generally went for her son's tuition payments and home improvements, and Ellinger spent some of the money on herself.

Senior King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Carver said the criminal filings were part of a complex set of lawsuits that include a civil case brought by the museum insurer and a divorce.

Carver said it's expected that much of the restitution will be paid through the settlement of Ellinger's divorce.

Ellinger, formerly of Redmond, was hired in March 2005 at a salary of $80,000 a year. According to court filings, she received a raise to $95,000 a year in 2007. The thefts were discovered in May 2007.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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