Clare County Bartender Charged with Embezzlement

“We’re lucky that we still have the doors open.”

A Clare County woman is now charged with embezzling more than $35,000 while working as a bartender.

Melissa Washburn is accused of stealing from the Clare Moose Lodge

Washburn worked there as a bartender and a bar manager from 2005 to 2017.

The investigation started last December, and deputies made the arrest just last week.

“December 12 of 2017 we were contacted by employees of the moose saying they believe they had some money that was embezzled at that time. My detectives started an investigation back then, we investigated. It was a long process finding everything out and interviewing all the witnesses,” said Clare County Sheriff, John Wilson.

Melissa Washburn is being charged with one count of embezzling, a felony charge. Facing 10 years and a fine of $15,000 if convicted.

Court documents show that Washburn admitted she embezzled between up to $15,000. But court documents say it was close to $38,000.

“No matter the amount that’s taken. Those places never recover that money, whether a nonprofit or a business for profit, once somebody embezzles from a business whether its government or business or whatever, that money is gone,” said Wilson.

Beth Ruark has been coming to the Clare Moose Lodge for over 20 years.

“Everyone knows that it’s wrong to steal and if you’re going to, there’s a price to pay eventually,” said Ruark.

Longtime patrons say the nonprofit Clare Moose Lodge focuses on helping the community with fundraisers and giving to charities.

“We live in a small community and it’s not a wealthy community. So there’s a lot of places that need help. People need help and if we don’t have the money to do it falls on other organizations. There’s only so much to go around,” said Ruark.

“The Moose puts a lot of their money into kids and it helps out the kids in local areas and nationally. When someone steals from that they’re stealing from their causes do,” said Wilson.

Washburn bonded out of jail and will have a hearing next week.