A former KVI-AM promotions coordinator was charged Tuesday with first-degree theft for allegedly rigging a radio contest to pocket some of the winnings, and 14 others allegedly involved in the scam were charged with second-degree theft.
From Feb. 6 to March 30, 2007, KVI 570-AM ran a Secret Listener Salute, in which names were announced three times daily. The listeners were told they had 30 minutes from the time of the announcement to call and win $1,000.
Prosecutors said Ryan Elizabeth Keeley, 26, was responsible for selecting contest names from two databases — one of KVI online Insider Club Members and another created through telemarketing.
Keeley, the station’s promotions coordinator, would then give the winning name to the broadcast booth to be announced, but police say she gave names of associates rather than legitimate winners. Keeley left the station in the summer of 2007.
In December 2007 or January 2008, one of the winners, Allen Edward Chapman, was contacted to turn in his W-9 tax form. Contest winners are required to submit a W-9 so their winnings can be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. But when the new promotions coordinator contacted him, Chapman said he never received his prize. He later told KVI staff the contest was rigged and Keeley would keep part of the winnings, according to court documents.
Chapman allegedly told police that he and his former girlfriend, Julie Anne Bergstrom, hired a man to work at their cafe who was friends with Keeley. That man, Jaron Johnson, connected the couple to Keeley, according to police.
Chapman, Bergstrom and Johnson are among the 14 people charged in King County Superior Court with second-degree theft. First- and second-degree theft is a felony.
Police allege Keeley, the former promotions coordinator, worked out details of the scam in March 2007, about four months before she left the station. The contest had 28 winners.
The woman “is the only employee of KVI radio with the means and ability to orchestrate this theft,” Seattle Police Detective Philip Wall wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
Keeley, who according to court documents has no reportable criminal history in Washington, allegedly told Wall the situation had been “a stupid thing to do” and she “wanted to take responsibility,” according to court documents.
On June 3, 2009, Wall took a taped statement from Keeley, who allegedly admitted to helping Chapman, Bergstrom, Johnson and four others win the KVI contest. The others, who also have been charged with second-degree theft are Lindsey Linnae Auckland , Justin Wayne Dever, Jessica Lyn Dickason and Joshua Allen Stringfellow.
“Keeley denied any specific prior arrangements to claim portions of the winnings, but admitted ‘some people gave me some money’ after winning,” Wall wrote in court documents. “Keeley said she used a phone to contact the winners or arranged to have those winners contacted through Johnson.
Last August, police seized bank records for two savings accounts Keeley opened at Wells Fargo Bank. Police used phone records to link seven other contest winners to her: Jenna N. Derosa, Matthew Peter Gundersen, Jason Matthew Juhl, Kyle Edward J. Lasicka, Austin M. Lemming and Lucas Dean Woody.
Those seven are among those charged with second-degree theft. None are in custody for the theft case, and an arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 16.
The scam was reported in 2008 by the human resources manager for Fisher Broadcasting Inc., KVI’s parent company. Keeley’s former supervisors told police they were unaware of the situation when it was happening. The company contacted police on advisement of the Federal Communications Commission, which Fisher had contacted after learning of the alleged scam.
Keeley later found work at an espresso stand , according to a 2008 Seattle police report.
A Fisher spokesperson declined to comment on the case Tuesday. KVI-AM/570, a talk radio station, was bought by Fisher Broadcasting Inc. in May 1994. [source]