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Ex-office manager charged in $265,000 theft

The former manager of a Medford medical office faces charges of stealing &

36;265,000 from the practice and its patients.

Barbara Tollefson, 62, of the 2300 block of Amaryllis Street, Medford, is scheduled to hear the charges against her today in Jackson County Circuit Court. A grand jury Friday indicted Tollefson on a racketeering charge and six counts of first-degree aggravated theft.

A long-time office manager for Medford Pathologists, which rents space at Rogue Valley Medical Center, Tollefson is suspected of embezzling from the physicians' group since 1991, said Medford police Lt. Mike Moran. Physicians contacted police in August last year because they thought Tollefson was using business checks to pay personal bills, Moran said. The time involved with obtaining bank records contributed to a lengthy investigation, he added.

Tollefson forged checks to pay credit card bills for clothing, beauty treatments, travel and even building supplies, said Medford police officer Keith Mak. Bank records also show that she made payments on her home mortgage and electricity bills with stolen funds, Mak said. While Tollefson had the power to sign business checks, she also used a signature stamp belonging to a physician who had moved her practice to another office, Mak said.

Refunds sent to the office from third parties like Medicare and insurance companies were not passed on to patients but instead credited to Tollefson's personal bank account, Mak said. Tollefson had sole responsibility for the office accounts and did much of her work from home, he added.

— She was a long-time, trusted employee, Moran said.

About &

36;265,000 was stolen between 1998 and 2003, Mak said. The embezzlement scheme likely dates to 1991, but the statute of limitations has run out for prosecuting those crimes, he added. Tollefson has not worked for Medford Pathologists since the embezzlement was uncovered in August, Mak said.

Police did not arrest Tollefson, and she remained free pending her 9 a.m. court appearance.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .