Ashland police believe an Ashland Food Cooperative checker embezzled $12,595 from the grocery store between January and last week, regularly stealing between $20 and $600, the police chief said Friday.
Police cited Ashland resident Corina Silva, 31, with first-degree aggravated theft, a felony, last week.
Officers finished their investigation into the crime Thursday and planned to forward the case to the Jackson County District Attorney's office Friday, Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said.
First-degree aggravated theft is a Class B felony and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, police said.
"Depending on the criminal history, it varies substantially," Holderness said.
Officers released Silva after citing her for the crime.
Silva, who worked at the co-op for more than two years, is no longer employed at the store, said Richard Katz, general manager.
She was well-liked by employees and customers at the store, he said.
"It's certainly a shock to us and a very sad situation for everybody concerned," he said.
The person responsible for the thefts appears to have taken cash from the store registers while scanning coupons worth money, said Lt. Corey Falls with the Ashland Police Department.
"As you scan them, you can take cash from the till and it doesn't show up," he said.
Co-op records show that the thief took money every few days, Holderness said.
"It seemed to be pretty regular since Jan. 7, until the day we contacted her," he said. "It varied from a low of $20 to high of $600."
The grocery store discovered the crime last week, Katz said.
"We felt what we discovered was serious enough, we had to get the police involved," he said.
Holderness commended the co-op for calling police.
"They did the right thing when they contacted us," he said. "They were watching their books and they saw unusual activity."
The co-op is reviewing its policies to guard against theft in the future, Katz said.
"We would have found out eventually, but it took us longer than it should have," he said. "We missed it."
The co-op is owned by nearly 6,000 people, many of them locals.
Employees and customers have expressed concern about Silva this week, Katz said.
"Even though we have nearly 150 employees, we're still a pretty tight group of people in many ways and we care about each other," he said. "Obviously Corina has a lot of friends here."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.