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Office manager said to have taken $34,000 from law firm that has since dissolved

When an arsonist allegedly burned a Madras law office in 2019, it was already being sacked from within, according to a newly filed criminal case in Jefferson County.

Redmond woman Alexis Lynn Hughes is accused of embezzling $34,000 from the law firm, Glenn, Reeder & Gassner, which dissolved in the wake of the suspected arson in May 2019.

Hughes appeared in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Wednesday for arraignment on 16 felony charges.

Hughes, 27, worked as the sole bookkeeper for Glenn, Reeder & Gassner from 2018 until May 2020.

She's accused of raiding the firm's client trust account, according to her indictment filed Dec. 16.

Law firms must maintain trust accounts to hold money belonging to clients.

Hughes was caught attempting to conceal that she moved money from the trust account without authorization, according to firm partner Tim Gassner.

"She was sloppy when she did it and she caused a trust check to bounce," Gassner said.

The firm was required to report the bounced check to the Oregon State Bar. In this case, after the firm reported the bounced check, the bar began a disciplinary review of Gassner, who as managing partner had an ethical duty to oversee the trust account.

Earlier this year, the bar released its findings that Gassner had been negligent in failing to oversee the employee trust account.

As a strict liability offense, it didn't matter that Gassner didn't know about the theft, he said.

"We made the report, because that's what you do, and unfortunately the bar took the position that because this transaction occurred under my watch, I was responsible for it, even though I didn't do it or have any knowledge of it," he said. "I now have this black mark on my record because of this employee's conduct, and I'm not pleased about it."

On the evening of Memorial Day 2019, police and fire were called to downtown Madras to a report of smoke and flames coming from the two-story law office at 205 SE Fifth St.

The building, owned by the firm's three partners, sustained heavy damage in the fire, including the loss of numerous irreplaceable historic texts belonging to the 76-year-old firm. The firm's management told The Madras Pioneer last year that with two of three partners nearing retirement, they didn't think purchasing a new space and starting over made financial sense.

n February of this year, a Madras man, Troy Ernest Patrick, was charged with two counts of arson in the fire.

Patrick, 55, has numerous felony convictions on his record dating to the mid-1980s. According to records, he was represented several times by the firm's attorneys.

Officials have not offered thoughts on Patrick's motive in the alleged arson.

"I can't speculate on what happened there," Gassner said Wednesday, adding that the arson and the embezzlement are not related.

"Nothing has been discovered through the law enforcement investigation to necessarily connect the two," Gassner said, declining to comment further on the case.

Patrick is an inmate of the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility, awaiting trial in a separate Wasco County case. His Jefferson County attorney, Dylan Potter, declined to comment.

Both the arson and the embezzlement cases are now being prosecuted by the Oregon Department of Justice. Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche asked the DOJ to take over after it became clear there were too many potential small-town conflicts of interest.

"It made us feel uncomfortable to investigate a law firm that we've worked with so frequently," Leriche told The Bulletin. "They're kind of our opponent on so many things, and we thought the best appearance of propriety would be to have the DOJ take care of all matters."

Hughes' next court date in the embezzlement case is scheduled for February.

Former firm partner David Glenn did not return a phone message.

Former firm partner Don Reeder declined to comment.

"It's kind of odd being a victim, after all these years as an advocate," Reeder said.

In 2020, onetime firm partner William "Billy" Carl was hit with a 60-day license suspension after findings that he mishandled client trust funds, and that he violated ethics by engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman he was representing in a divorce and child custody case.

Carl was bought out as partner less than a year before the fire. He did not respond to calls or an email seeking comment.

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