MACHIAS, Maine — A Calais woman who pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $200,000 from a municipal school department has been sentenced to serve 18 months behind bars.
Tina Moholland, 37, pleaded guilty in February to stealing nearly $197,020 from the Calais School Department between September 2004 and November 2007.
On Monday, she was sentenced by Justice Allen Hunter in Washington County Superior Court to an overall sentence of eight years with all but 18 months suspended. He also ordered her to pay $180,000 in restitution upon her release and to serve three years of probation.
According to attorneys involved in the case, Moholland was ordered to sell a house she owns in Calais but does not live in and to use the proceeds to help pay restitution. Most of the restitution will go to Savings Bank of Maine, where Moholland had a personal account in which she deposited most of the stolen money, the attorneys indicated. The bank, which eventually alerted the school district to Moholland’s crimes, repaid the money to the school district.
Michael Povich, district attorney for Washington County, said Monday that as part of her sentence, Moholland was ordered not to possess alcohol or drugs and to undergo psychological counseling.
Povich said he had recommended that Moholland serve between four and five years behind bars but that Justice Hunter went with Moholland’s probation officer’s recommendation of 18 months. Povich said he respected the judge’s decision.
Moholland asked for a stay of sentence but her request was denied. She was taken from the courtroom to begin serving her sentence immediately.
Jeff Toothaker, Moholland’s attorney, said he had recommended that his client spend nine months behind bars, which would have allowed her to serve her sentence at the Washington County Jail. He said that Moholland, a single mother with a minor prior theft conviction, has no income to speak of and no money to show for her crimes. He said that as far as anyone can tell, she spent the money over a three-year period on everyday items.
“I think it was very fair,” Toothaker said of the sentence.
Moholland took the money while handling the finances of the school district’s day treatment program, which served approximately 40 children who had been diagnosed with “behavioral problems,” Povich has said. Towns that sent children to the program sent checks to Moholland to cover their local children’s costs.
Povich said after the sentencing that the criminal code needs to be updated to let the courts better differentiate between people who steal more than $10,000 and people who steal more than $100,000. As the law is now, he said, anyone who steals more than $10,000 is charged with a Class B felony, whether they stole $10,001 or $1 million, he said. The maximum period of incarceration for conviction of a Class B crime is 10 years.
“We’re having a large number of six-figure embezzlements now,” the prosecutor said.
He cited Harriet Webb, Julie Watson and Cecelia White as examples. Webb was convicted in 1994 of embezzling more than $300,000 from SAD 77 in Washington County. Watson was sentenced in 2003 to stealing between $400,000 and $750,000 from a prominent Ellsworth businessman. Cecelia White was sentenced last month to serve more than three years behind bars for stealing more than $400,000 from a Surry forester and a Bangor restaurant owner.
An embezzler often steals money or checks in individual amounts of a few hundred dollars, according to Povich. In Moholland’s case, six of the 29 checks she deposited in her own accounts were written for more than $10,000 and the rest were written for more than $1,000, he said.