HUDSON — Kathleen Collins got a phone call from a friend in her old neighborhood.
"Sit down," the friend said Wednesday. "I've got to tell you something."
Collins still can't believe the news: Her former neighbor, Catherine Yount, is accused of stealing more than $200,000 from two doctors' offices where she worked in billing.
"She's the last person I would ever think to do something like that," Collins said. "She's very sweet and very nice."
Yount, 52, was arrested Monday on charges that she stole $157,031.87 from River's Edge Pediatrics in New Port Richey. She was released that same day on $10,000 bail.
On Wednesday, she was arrested again. This time it was on charges she stole $53,710.06 from the Hudson office of a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Michael Wahl.
Again, she was charged with scheme to defraud and released that day on $10,000 bail.
Capt. Jeff Harrington of the New Port Richey Police Department said the investigation began in March, when a staffer at the pediatric clinic noticed a discrepancy in the books and contacted authorities.
He said Yount, of 18607 Oak Way Drive in Hudson, took checks coming into the offices from insurance companies and forged them using some home computer equipment to make the checks payable to her. Harrington said she deposited the money into her own account, though he did not know what she spent the money on.
According to Yount's arrest reports, she admitted taking the money.
"She is someone who was well thought of," Harrington said, "and given high regard."
Harrington said detectives contacted law enforcement agencies in the areas where Yount worked. That led to the Pasco Sheriff's investigation and arrest of Yount on Wednesday, he said.
He urges other current or previous employers of Yount to hire a professional to go through their finances and to call authorities if they find anything suspicious.
Quiet and sweet
Yount used to be the president of her neighborhood gardening club in Rolling Oaks Estates, a neighborhood just south of the Pasco-Hernando county line. Between 1996 and 2000, she taught a few medical billing classes at the Brooksville branch of Pasco-Hernando Community College. People describe her as quiet and sweet.
You don't get to be in a position of trust unless people feel they can trust you. And everyone called Thursday for this story said they trusted Yount, though no one — other than Collins — spoke on the record.
"It's a tragedy," she the woman who answered the phone at Dr. Wahl's office. "I feel terrible for her and her family."
People are shocked and stunned. They said Yount worked hard, holding part-time jobs in addition to a full-time one at the office of Dr. Fady Zeidan, an orthopedic surgeon in Spring Hill. Authorities have not said whether any money is missing there.
No one knew of any breaking point — debt, addiction — that would make this woman go against what they believed to be her character.
Yount was taken to court by American Express and Citibank for money she owed, but Pasco court records show both cases were dismissed in 2006 — the year authorities say she began stealing from the pediatric clinic.
Yount didn't return phone calls for this story.
"None of this seems possible," Collins said.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.