Mehrer to appear in superior court on theft, money-laundering charges

Former Camas-Washougal Aviation Association president accused of stealing $20K from nonprofit

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Kent Mehrer Post-Record files Kent Mehrer stands inside one of his two hangars at his home next to the Grove Field Airport in Camas in 2018. Mehrer will appear in Clark County Superior Court later this month on charges of first-degree theft and money laundering after being accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association.

Camas resident Kent Mehrer is set to appear in Clark County Superior Court on Thursday, June 29, to face first-degree theft and money-laundering charges.

Mehrer, the former president of the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association (CWAA), is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Camas-based nonprofit, which promotes aviation, supports the long-term operation and survival of Grove Field, and mentors future pilots through its scholarship program.

Former CWAA Treasurer Sally Luse reported that, during the summer of 2022, she had discovered as much as $20,000 missing from the nonprofit’s checking account, and that Mehrer, then the CWAA’s president, was the only person who had access to the group’s debit card.

Luse contacted the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which assigned sheriff Jon Shields to investigate the missing funds. On Jan. 26, Shields said he had found probable cause to arrest Mehrer on multiple charges and referred the case to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office.

Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Jeannie Bryant filed theft and money-laundering charges against Mehrer on May 24.

Mehrer admits in resignation letter to ‘borrowing money’ from CWAA

After being named the CWAA’s treasurer in the summer of 2022, Luse attempted to obtain its financial records to become a signer on the organization’s accounts at iQ Credit Union, according to Shields’ report.

“She said she made appointments with Kent Mehrer, but that he would often make excuses for several weeks on why he wasn’t able to meet her,” the report states. “(Luse) said (Mehrer) canceled so many times, she began to be suspicious.”

On July 28, 2022, according to Shields’ report, Luse met Mehrer at an iQ Credit Union branch to gain signatory authority on the CWAA accounts and deposit money the association had collected during its annual steak feed event.

This is when Luse discovered there was only $431.85 in the organization’s checking account and a “minimum balance” in the savings account, “despite receiving a treasurers’ report at each board meeting (indicating) that there should (be) significantly more funds in the accounts,” Shields noted.

According to the police report, Luse, a former auditor, froze the CWAA accounts, canceled the association’s debit card and asked for several years’ worth of statements to perform an audit. Later that day, Mehrer submitted his resignation letter to CWAA’s board of directors.

“I have made many personal financial mistakes and borrowed money from the CWAA accounts,” Mehrer stated in his letter. “I know it is wrong and unforgivable. … I will acquire the funds I borrowed and return them to the CWAA. It will take me a while to do that.”

According to Shields’ report, Mehrer stole $17,158 from the CWAA through cash, online account transfers and automatic teller machine (ATM) withdrawals between July 26, 2020 and July 29, 2022, and made 70 financial transactions to deposit “the proceeds of his theft from the CWAA account … into his own personal account held at iQ Credit Union using an ATM” between July 6, 2020, and July 29, 2022.

During an interview on Oct. 11, 2022, CWAA member Heikki Laukkanen told Shields that he was named treasurer of the CWAA in early 2020, but did not conduct any duties in that capacity.

“He never accessed the account, wrote a check, reviewed the statements or created any of the treasurer reports for the CWAA board meetings. He said Mehrer had done that,” Shields noted in his report, adding that Laukkanen “brought an envelope with a few items in it, (including) a debit card in his name for the account, (and) said he had never used the card.”

Mehrer confirmed he had been performing the duties of treasurer for the organization during an interview with Shields on Nov. 1, 2022.

“We discussed the letter he had given to the CWAA board confessing that he had taken money from the account for personal use, and he admitted that he had written the letter,” Shields wrote in his report. “(Mehrer) also didn’t deny that he had taken the money.”

Mehrer told Shields he believed he had taken “somewhere around $20,000,” according to the police report.

“I told him that there was about $24,000 missing from the account and showed him the spreadsheet, cash withdrawals from the CWAA and cash deposits (to his account),” Shields stated in his report. “(Mehrer) said that some of the ATM or cash withdrawals he made were for legitimate CWAA business. I asked if he had kept a ledger or accounting of what was taken for what purpose, and he said he hadn’t.”

Mehrer told Shields he was “working on a deal” with the Port of Camas-Washougal for the purchase of his property that borders the Grove Field airport.

“He said when that happens, he will have the funds to repay CWAA,” Shields stated in his report. “I asked if he had spoken to the board about that, and he said he hadn’t.”

Port commissioners approved an agreement to purchase Mehrer’s 5-acre airport-adjacent property for $900,000 in December 2022. The Port gave Mehrer $20,000 at the conclusion of the sale and agreed to pay off the remaining mortgage balance on the property ($435,000). Mehrer will receive the remaining $445,000 in the form of monthly payments over the next 15 years.

“The $20,000 was supposed to be for us, and we never saw it,” Luse told The Post-Record in January.