CENTRAL CITY – A Columbus woman will be sentenced in April after pleading no contest to embezzling nearly $90,000 over a six-month period in 2016-17 while working as a secretary at a Silver Creek business.

Merrick County District Court Judge Rachel Daugherty scheduled Chelsea Aldrich for sentencing April 16 in Central City.

Aldrich pleaded to theft by unlawful taking-over $5,000, a Class 2A felony with a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment, in connection with 32 bogus checks written on the bank account of Agroservice Inc. in Silver Creek.

The forged checks, written from Aug. 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2017, totaled $89,988.05.

A Merrick County Sheriff’s Office investigation began Feb. 14 last year when authorities received a report of a theft at Agroservice in which an employee was suspected of embezzling funds.

The owners of the business, Charles and Christine Starostka, had hired Aldrich as a secretary in March 2015. One of Aldrich’s roles was to prepare checks for the owners to authorize and sign.

The business owners were alerted Feb. 13 by a representative of First National Bank & Trust company that unauthorized checks had been debited from their business account, Deputy Jake Bauer wrote in his probable cause arrest statement.

The deputy said the Starostkas reported that Aldrich had not shown up for work since Feb. 6.

The couple reviewed the 32 checks and reported that none of the checks were presented to them for signing or approval and all were unauthorized transactions that resulted in withdrawals from the account, Bauer wrote in his statement.

Bauer said in his statement that a review of Aldrich’s First National Bank account records revealed deposit slips for each of the unauthorized checks that were endorsed with the suspect’s signature.

When Aldrich was arrested the morning of Feb. 17 last year at Agroservice, the deputy wrote, an inspection of her vehicle parked outside revealed several packed bags and suitcases and several items of clothing, indicating the suspect was a flight risk.