The fraternal organization was forced to suspend all of its community charitable programs, including student scholarships, a bikes-for-books reading program and even a planned Christmas party for 350 elementary students last December because its money was gone. The group also had to delay paying contractors for a remodel of its lodge that was under way when the money disappeared.
“This was probably the most embarrassing and worst thing that could have happened to us,” said Lodge Master Karl Word.
The Lodge’s former treasurer, Harry P. Himmelhaver, 57, of Brewster, pleaded guilty April 26 in Chelan County Superior Court to five counts of forgery for stealing from the organization’s bank accounts. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
He has repaid $37,000 as part of an agreed settlement with the Masons. But Word said he is believed to have taken as much as $70,000.
Himmelhaver is currently serving his sentence at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.
In a prepared written statement filed with his guilty plea in court, Himmelhaver admitted he transferred checks from one bank account that he did not have authority to access into an account he could access as treasurer of the organization.
Himmelhaver began transferring money from the Lodge’s money market account into its checking account starting in June, he said. He continued to do it until September. After transferring the money into the checking account, he withdrew money using the Lodge’s debit card at ATMs in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties, according to court documents.
Word said Himmelhaver made about 100 cash withdrawals from ATMs. He also used the Lodge’s debit card to make purchases for himself.
Himmelhaver mostly used the stolen funds to bankroll his gambling habits.