SEATTLE (AP) — A former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent accused of embezzling nearly $20,000 when he worked for the federal agency was indicted Thursday.

A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted James Contreras, 51, of Maple Valley, Wash., on an embezzlement count and 30 counts of making false statements, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco said.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle is recused from the case.

While Contreras worked as an agent and supervisor at the ATF office in Seattle, he’s accused of embezzling money from a cash fund for which he was responsible. He’s also accused of submitting false reports to account for the money. The fund was to be used for such things as purchasing evidence or making subsistence payments to confidential informants, the U.S. attorney’s statement said.

The indictment cites 30 alleged payments to Contreras between March 10, 2010, and April 30, 2012.

Contreras will make an initial appearance in federal court in Seattle in December, prosecutors said. Court documents did not indicate whether he has a lawyer.

An Associated Press effort to contact Contreras by phone for comment reached a woman who said, “I know what this is about” and asked not to be called again.

It was not immediately clear when Contreras left the ATF. Phone and email messages were left for a U.S. attorney’s spokeswoman Thursday evening.

The maximum penalty for embezzlement is 10 years, a $250,000 fine and restitution. The maximum penalty for each false statement count is five years and a $250,000 fine.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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