According to a plea agreement, bookkeeper Sarah Elizabeth Coffelt has agreed to pay $755,000 in restitution.
An Orcas Island bookkeeper and businesswoman has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud for embezzling more than $750,000 from a former NASA astronaut and his wife.
Sarah Elizabeth Coffelt pleaded guilty in a plea agreement Monday before U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly, who set sentencing for July 13. Coffelt faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
According to a plea agreement, Coffelt has agreed to pay $755,000 in restitution.
The charges allege that Coffelt was hired by an Orcas Island couple as a bookkeeper for their family businesses, identified as the Heritage Flight Museum in Everett and Apogee Flight Inc., which owns a series of aircraft and hangars. The couple is identified only by their initials in federal court documents, W.A. and V.A.
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However, a civil lawsuit filed last summer in San Juan County Superior Court against Coffelt and her husband, John, makes almost identical allegations as the federal criminal charges. Plaintiffs in that action are identified as retired Air Force Maj. Gen. William Anders and his wife, Valerie.
The Anderses are also the owners of the flight museum, with other family members, and Apogee Flight services, according to records.
The charges allege that Coffelt, who owns Moon Glow Arts and Crafts store in Eastsound, San Juan County, began working for the couple in 2003 and began stealing money from them sometime later.
In a plea agreement, Coffelt admitted she used money from her employers’ accounts to pay the expenses of her business, as well as other expenses, such as trips for her family, her mortgage, her taxes and more than $30,000 in fuel charges.
Anders was among the country’s first astronauts and was the pilot of the Lunar Module during the Apollo 8 lunar-orbiting mission in 1968, according to his biography.