A woman formerly employed by local NASCAR racing champion Ron Eaton was arraigned in court last week after being charged with stealing more than $30,000 from Eaton and one of his businesses while she worked as a bookkeeper.
Terrie Ann Hopkins, 58, was charged March 8 in Pierce County Superior Court with two counts of first-degree identity theft, two counts of first-degree theft and three counts of second-degree theft.
Hopkins pleaded not guilty and was released on her personal recognizance at her arraignment Tuesday. Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams ordered the defendant to remain at a Puyallup address.
Charging documents say Hopkins, who was employed by Eaton from 1990 to 2018, stole about $30,562 from Eaton and his businesses by opening accounts in her employer’s name, forging checks and using a company credit card.
Prosecutors allege that the thefts took place between October 2015 and June 2018. However, an auditor also allegedly uncovered multiple bank accounts opened by the defendant in Eaton’s name dating back to 2012.
Eaton, 78, is from Tacoma and was a three-time champion of NASCAR’s now-folded Northwest Series, in 1986, 1988 and 1995. The former racer is also a businessman who owns several auto body shops and a real estate business in the county.
Investigators were tipped off to the alleged thefts after another person hired to oversee bookkeeping at Eaton Properties in January 2018 found a personal account in Eaton’s name with two suspicious charges on it.
When she confronted the long-time bookkeeper about the charges — approximately $10,000 for air conditioning at a rental property owned by Eaton Properties and another charge for installation of blinds — Hopkins “became angry” and kicked the other bookkeeper out of the office, according to the declaration for determination of probable cause.
The new bookkeeper told detectives that she later learned the blinds and air conditioning were installed in Hopkins’ private residence.
Five days later, Hopkins was no longer employed by Eaton, according to the probable cause statement. About a year later, the new bookkeeper reported the fraud to the Lakewood Police Department.
An investigator obtained a search warrant for Hopkins’ accounts with Bank of America, which showed two $5,000 cashiers checks made out to the defendant from Ron and Gina Eaton, a $1,200 cashiers check made out to her from one of Eaton’s businesses and a $570 personal check from Eaton.
None of the deposits to the defendant’s bank accounts were authorized by Eaton, according to the Lakewood police investigator’s report.
The investigator also obtained paperwork from Pacific Air Systems for two charges on Eaton’s account in amounts of $10,261.97 and $8,530.41. Invoices for the charges included Hopkins’ name and two addresses in Puyallup.
When the investigator contacted Hopkins in January 2021 and told her Eaton believed she stole large amounts of money from his business, she said she was “shocked by this statement, but later said she knew that Mr. Eaton was claiming she stole money,” according to the probable cause statement.
Hopkins told the investigator she had evidence which showed she didn’t steal money from Eaton and would bring it to police and provide a statement on Jan. 13, 2021. When the day came, she didn’t show up.