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Woman accused of embezzling from Lakota Ambulance Service begins trial Tuesday

LAKOTA, N.D. — A former Lakota Ambulance Service employee who faces 24 charges after investigators said she embezzled more than $31,000 will go to trial Tuesday in Grand Forks.

Tamra Dae Bulik, 52, was charged in August 2016 with a Class B felony of misapplication of entrusted property, 22 Class C felonies of forgery or counterfeiting and a Class A misdemeanor of deceptive writings.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations began looking into Bulik after the Lakota Ambulance Service reported possible embezzlement, which a BCI agent estimates totaled $31,476, according to a criminal complaint. The charges accuse Bulik of forging documents and multiple checks, paying herself for excessive holidays and weeks of employment, and writing checks to herself that sometimes exceeded $1,000.

Bulik, who was hired in November 2014, was the agency's only full-time employee and was responsible for carrying out several duties on behalf of the Ambulance Service, such as managing financial records, paying taxes, paying credit card bills and signing checks.

At first, she would provide financial reports at monthly meetings of the Ambulance Service Executive Board, but she stopped doing that during later months, according to court documents. Board member Erin Fossen also reported Bulik did not have financial reports prepared for any weekly meetings with the ambulance squad in 2015. When offered help, Bulik said an accountant was helping her, according to court documents.

Board member Andrew Jorde also told a BCI agent the Ambulance Service's QuickBook entries from January 2015 to February 2016 were missing, according to court documents.

When questioned on March 1 by the board about financial discrepancies and paychecks she cashed, Bulik said it was a mistake and that she had a gambling problem. Her employment was terminated the same day.

Checks from the Ambulance Service must have two signatures — usually by a board member and Bulik. Bulik sometimes had Jorde sign the checks, according to court documents.

In a June 22 interview, Jorde told a BCI agent he did not sign 23 checks that bore his signature. All of the checks, which were canceled, were made to Bulik between Jan. 16, 2015, and Feb. 21, 2016, according to court records.

Payroll records showed Bulik also had paid herself 57 weekly checks of $900 in 2015. Her contract said she was to be paid weekly. There are only 52 weeks in a year.

Bulik also paid herself for 28 holidays from 2014 through 2015 that she did not work, according to court documents. The Ambulance Service has only six paid holidays a year

A Class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Each Class C felony carries up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Bulik faces up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine on the Class A misdemeanor.

Bulik initially was charged with 23 counts of forgery, but one charge was dismissed at a disposition in September 2016.

Jury selection is anticipated to take place Tuesday morning. Judge Jon Jensen will hear the case.