Legislative aide accused of stealing money from state Sen. Ranker

Jennifer Eberle, a former aide to state Sen. Kevin Ranker, is facing criminal charges after she allegedly stole more than $2,000 from the senator’s checking account.

The 41-year-old Tumwater woman had worked for Ranker, an Orcas Island Democrat who represents 40th District voters in Whatcom County, for only about two months when an audit uncovered 18 questionable checks.

Eberle no longer works for the senator, said Ranker spokesman Aaron Wasser. She had been part of a three-person staff, including a second legislative aide and an intern.

Wasser said he was unable to provide further information about Eberle’s time as a legislative aide.

Eberle was charged this week with one count of forgery and one count of second-degree theft in Thurston County Superior Court.

Ranker’s office initiated the audit in mid-July after Eberle was arrested for allegedly pawning stolen jewelry, according to court documents. Staff contacted the Washington State Patrol on July 17 to report the questionable checks.

Each of the 18 checks had been made out to Eberle. The checks were connected to a personal account that Ranker uses for legislative purposes. Expenses paid for through the account are typically reimbursed by the state, according to court documents.

Check amounts varied from $150 to $700, and many contained note lines reading “Comcast,” “office materials” and “training materials.” Others contained illegible note lines.

Ranker told investigators that he had never authorized checks to be issued to Eberle.

The theft and forgery charges are the third set of charges filed against Eberle this month.

The Tumwater Police Department began investigating her July 13 after a friend reported that Eberle had stolen several pieces of jewelry and sold them to a local pawn shop, according to court documents. She allegedly stole several rings, valued at $3,400 total.

The friend noticed that the rings were missing after Eberle had used her bathroom. The friend went to Tumwater Pawnbroker, where she discovered three of her rings. Police later contacted Cash Northwest and found more of the friend’s jewelry, according to court documents.

Police found Eberle’s name and information on the pawn slips. She was charged July 15 with one count of first-degree theft and two counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The friend told police that she believes Eberle became addicted to prescription medication following a back injury.

On July 14, Eberle’s mother and her neighbor reported that they also were missing jewelry, according to court documents.

Eberle had been living with her mother, and during that time seven pairs of earrings, five necklaces and three rings had gone missing. She said that she suspected that her daughter had taken them. The neighbor reported that she was missing two rings, according to court documents.

Officers found the jewelry at Cash Northwest, and Eberle’s information was on the pawn slips.

She was charged July 16 with one count of first-degree theft and two counts of trafficking in stolen property.

Eberle was released on her personal recognizance in all three cases. She is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court for arraignment.

Correction: Sen. Ranker's legislative district was incorrect in earlier versions of this story.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445