AUGUSTA — A Gardiner woman is accused of stealing more than $166,000 from the Maine Trial Lawyers Association over more than four years and altering statements and tax documents to cover her tracks.

Bettysue Higgins, 53, was indicted Friday on a charge of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and one charge of forgery.

She was an administrative assistant at the Augusta-based association when the theft occurred, according to prosecutor Leanne Robbin, chief of the financial crimes and civil rights division of the Attorney General’s Office.

The theft – which took the form of 220 association checks Higgins allegedly made out to herself – came to light in October 2010, Robbin said.

Robbin said Higgins forged the signature of Steve Prince, executive director of the association, on the checks. Copies of those checks attached to the indictment show amounts from hundreds to thousands of dollars made out to Higgins.

The association – through its attorney, Peter DeTroy – also filed a lawsuit against Higgins accusing her of breach of contract.

Prince said a fraud examiner hired by the association determined that the checks on the operating account were forged and that Higgins hid the scheme by having the online banking statements sent directly to her e-mail.