Almost $1.6 million of Franklin County taxpayer money was sent to a defunct company via a P.O. box in Spokane during the past decade.

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PASCO — Almost $1.6 million of Franklin County taxpayer money was sent to a defunct company via a P.O. box in Spokane during the past decade.

County financial records show that a former county manager and previously convicted embezzler might have stolen $600,000 more than officials had estimated.

County records obtained by the Tri-City Herald under the state Public Records Act show Dennis M. Huston might have embezzled $1.58 million using Critzer Equipment’s name since at least 2003.

When he was arrested last month, Huston allegedly told investigators he used some of the money to buy drugs, according to court documents.

Huston, 65, is not charged with a crime. He was arrested but then released while county and state officials investigate the theft allegations.

The Herald also learned Huston might have been the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation three years ago, about the time the FBI was asked to investigate fraud allegations against him.

Documents subpoenaed included prehiring and payroll documents for Huston, who was hired less than eight months after he finished serving a federal prison term after admitting to using a fake company to steal money from a federal agency.

In 2009, the FBI did not find any evidence to support claims made in an anonymous complaint, according to documents obtained by the Herald.

Huston continued to work and get paid about $76,000 a year as the Public Works Department’s accounting and administrative director until his arrest Feb. 2. He was fired Feb. 8.

He is under investigation for creating a bank account for Critzer Equipment of Spokane, which went out of business in 2001.

Between 2003 and 2011, county checks sent to Critzer Equipment ranged from $122,874 in 2011 to a high of $220,211 in 2007.

The county wrote 18 to 24 checks a year to Critzer in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $10,800 — well below the $25,000 amount that triggers a public-bidding requirement.