A former officer at a Colorado Springs credit union pleaded guilty Wednesday in an embezzlement scheme that netted her $170,000 - more than twice the amount police initially accused her of pocketing.

Rhoda K. Pohina, 39, could face two to six years in prison at a sentencing Oct. 4, though she is also eligible for probation and work release.

Under a plea agreement that tossed one of the two felony theft counts against her, Pohina admitted to abusing her access to the books while serving as assistant manager at the Harrison School District 2 Credit Union - directing secret cash advances into her account and arranging to have her credit card debts erased using credit union funds.

The thefts occurred between December 2008 and June 2014, said prosecutor Carissa Cruson.

The credit union is operated independently from the school district, though it offers services to the district's students and employees.

At the time of Pohina's arrest, in June 2016, she worked in the communications office at Harrison School District 2. She was fired Oct. 27, the day after a story about her charges appeared in The Gazette, with school officials saying she violated policy when she went four months without notifying her supervisors that she had been arrested on suspicion of a felony.

Although police initially estimated her thefts at roughly $80,000, a continuing investigation found that she ran up a tab of $173,514, Cruson said.

Police say Pohina manipulated financial records using a home computer that gave her access to the credit union's databases but did not track her activities.

A lack of checks and balances on the part of the credit union enabled the suspected theft to go unnoticed for years, according to the arrest affidavit.

Her deal with prosecutors allowed Pohina to tender an Alford plea, in which defendants say they do not admit wrongdoing though they want to take advantage of the plea bargain to avoid going to trial on the charges. Alford pleas are treated the same as guilty pleas when it comes to a person's criminal record and the penalties they face.

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I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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