Sheridan woman faces embezzlement charges in Missoula

A Sheridan woman accused of embezzling $300,000 from the University of Montana, made her first appearance in a Missoula Justice Court last week.

Christine Rose Bitterman, 49, is charged with five counts of felony theft for embezzling money from the university while she worked for the campus housing department. She has yet to enter a plea in the case, which will be remanded to Missoula District Court prior to March 17, said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed in the case, Bitterman worked for University of Montana University Villages and committed the thefts during a seven-year period starting July 2003 and ending in July 2010.

Last summer a tenant at the University Villages inquired about some discrepancy in her account. As part of her job, Bitterman was responsible for entering rent payments. After an initial inquiry into other tenant accounts, a University Village official contacted the university’s internal audit division, which then contacted police, according to the affidavit.

Bitterman was initially placed on administrative leave during the investigation. She later resigned, according to the document.

During the investigation, the internal audit division discovered thefts and conservatively estimated the amount stolen at $304,007.27.

“In general, the internal audit indicated that Bitterman made numerous irregular postings in the accounting system, which usually involved completing a receipt card that indicated a payment was made by a tenant in cash but then the payment was entered in the accounting system as a payment made by check,” reads the document. “The internal audit also identified corresponding adjustment entries made to tenant rent charges, which then, in essence, negated the need for a rent payment. The combination of these procedures was then utilized by Bitterman to balance the deposits she made and thereby keep substantial amounts of cash which should have gone to UM, for her own use.”

The investigation also discovered that Bitterman shopped online at work, loaned co-workers money and carried a sizeable amount of cash, according to the affidavit.

University of Montana Vice President Jim Foley issued the following statement about Bitterman’s arrest and alleged theft:

“The University is aware of the incident, and the case is now in the hands of the court, its fate to be determined by the legal system. The University regrets the situation and has put in place additional precautions to prevent another such incident from occurring.”

If found guilty, Bitterman could face 50 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

The Missoula Justice Court set her bail at $100,000, according to an article by Gwen Florio in The Missoulian

The Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio helped with the research for this article.

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