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A 45-year-old East Main Street woman was arrested yesterday and charged with 20 counts of theft from her former employer, city police reported.

Michele Jane Pierson, a former bookkeeper and receptionist at the Andrew J. Shaw real estate agency, also faces a single charge of conspiracy, police said.

Westminster Police Detective Lt. Dean Brewer said Pierson's job was to collect rent from tenants on the agency's properties and recordthe payments in the company's ledgers. She then was to deposit the money in the agency's account.

Brewer said he was contacted by owner Andrew Shaw in February with a report that several rent payments were never deposited into the company's account.

Shaw told Brewer hefound the discrepancy when he approached tenant Roy Robertson about missing rent payments.

Robertson reportedly told Shaw he had been making his rent payments on time to Pierson, court records show.

When Robertson confronted Pierson about the missing payments, Pierson gave him the key to the agency office and the combination to the safeand told him to take the rent ledger out and destroy it, police reported.

Instead of taking the ledger, Robertson reported the incident to Shaw, Brewer said.

Pierson, who was unable to be reached for comment, is charged with taking $4,688 in rent payments to the Shaw agency from April to December 1990.

Brewer said the payments were made by six renters, including Pierson.

Court records show 14 of the payments were for less than $300 and six payments were greater than$300.

For each of the counts of theft under $300, Pierson could face up to 18 months in jail and a $500 fine. For each of the six counts of theft over $300, she could face up to 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Pierson quit the agency in January, Brewer said.

She was taken before a District Court commissioner yesterday morning and released on $30,000 bond.

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