An Ashland Parks and Recreation receptionist was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing $43,390 from the department over a two-year period, bringing to three the number of parks workers accused of theft in recent months.

An Ashland Parks and Recreation receptionist was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing $43,390 from the department over a two-year period, bringing to three the number of parks workers accused of theft in recent months.

Rebecca "Becky" Bianco, 48, who has worked in recreation since 2003, is accused of funneling fraudulent refunds for recreation classes or park facility rentals into several credit card accounts belonging to her.

Ashland police arrested Bianco on three counts of first-degree aggravated theft, two counts of aggravated identity theft, two counts of computer crime, two counts of falsifying business records, two counts of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree theft. She remained in the Jackson County Jail Tuesday on $82,000 bail.

An investigation started after a company that processes payments for rentals and classes contacted parks managers about suspicious activity, Parks Director Don Robertson said. Parks managers quickly contacted Ashland police, he said.

A two-month APD and Medford Police Department investigation revealed that over a two-year period, fraudulent refunds from a parks and recreation account maintained by the payment processor were directed into several credit card accounts belonging to Bianco. The total of the fraudulent refunds was $43,390, according to police.

Bianco was placed on paid administrative leave in early November. She remains on leave pending a disciplinary process, Robertson said.

Police served a search warrant on Bianco's home on Nov. 16 and seized paperwork and a computer. Ashland police and the parks department are continuing to work on the investigation.

Medford police assisted to remove any suspicion that Ashland police might cover up wrongdoing by fellow city employees. The Medford department also has many detectives who work on financial issues, said Ashland Deputy Chief Corey Falls.

Robertson said city officials take the alleged thefts very seriously, and will pursue any wrongdoing by public employees.

The parks department has changed its procedures for the processing of refunds so they are manually reviewed by several people, Robertson said.

Bianco is the fourth parks department employee to be placed on administrative leave or to be fired.

Harold Ross Straub, a parks technician, was fired in December after being arrested on Nov. 19 for allegedly stealing city of Ashland and parks department gas, fertilizer and equipment. Police recovered about $1,000 worth of fertilizer and equipment from his home. He also is suspected of stealing at least $1,000 worth of city gas, based on a check of six months' worth of gas logs.

Police are still investigating the extent of the alleged thefts by Straub, Falls said.

Straub's work partner, Shane Peabody, is on paid administrative leave while an investigation continues. A police detective who staked out the parks department's Oak Knoll Public Golf Course said Peabody was present and saw Straub pour gas from city containers into Straub's personal truck, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Peabody has provided information to assist in the investigation about Straub, Falls said.

Parks technician Steve Lawrence was put on paid administrative leave on Dec. 8. Police found parks equipment valued at $200 at his home. Lawrence resigned in late December.

Falls said police have found nothing to indicate that the alleged thefts via fraudulent refunds by Bianco are related to the alleged thefts of materials by Straub and Lawrence.

In a previous interview, Straub said he was only borrowing parks equipment, and took city gas as compensation for personal use of his truck.

City officials said the Ashland Municipal Code bans borrowing of city equipment for personal use by public employees.

According to documents in Straub's parks department personnel file that were obtained by the Daily Tidings, Robertson wrote that Straub's claims were not credible.

Robertson wrote that a wide variety of tools was found at Straub's home, indicating that "tools were taken over longer periods of time and kept permanently without any intent of being returned."

Robertson wrote that if Straub did use his personal vehicle for work, Straub could have been reimbursed for mileage, and should not have taken city gasoline.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.