ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former deputy town clerk in Bucksport pleaded guilty in Hancock County Superior Court on Thursday to stealing more than $36,000 from the town office over a four-year period.
Darla Crawford, 51, of Orland entered the plea before Justice Kevin Cuddy. The Class B felony charge of theft by unauthorized taking carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
The plea was what is known as an Alford Plea, according to Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich.
“Essentially, she pleaded guilty without admitting she was guilty,” Povich said. “She acknowledged that, based on the evidence, if this were to go to a jury, it would result in a guilty finding.”
According to Povich, the case was largely circumstantial and was based on the times Crawford was in the office and her handwriting on deposit slips.
Crawford began working at the town office in 1990 and served as office manager and deputy tax collector during the times of the thefts.
Povich said that between 2002 and 2006, Crawford diverted payments — usually checks or electronic payments — intended for the town’s ambulance account. The payments were for reimbursement for use of the town ambulance, he said.
Instead of posting those payments immediately, Povich said, Crawford would delay posting and withdraw cash amounts before depositing the funds in the bank.
Another town employee noticed irregularities in the accounts in July 2006 and brought it to the attention of Town Manager Roger Raymond. Raymond ordered an audit and notified the Police Department. According to Povich, between 2002 and 2004, the audit revealed 101 separate transactions in which a total of $36,776.56 was taken from the town account.
Justice Cuddy accepted Crawford’s plea and has continued sentencing until May 2010. According to Povich, that will give Crawford time to raise more than $18,000 in partial restitution to the town. That amount will reimburse the town for costs related to the audit that are not covered by the town’s insurance.
Povich said he plans to recommend a four-year sentence with all but nine months suspended and three years probation, with additional restitution of $36,77.56 for the amount that was taken. That recommendation is based on Crawford coming up with the restitution funds. If she does not, he said, she will have to pay the full restitution of about $55,000 and there will be no plea deal.