DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The former town manager of Milo and former treasurer of Three Rivers Kiwanis who pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $50,000 from the Kiwanis Club was sentenced late Tuesday morning to 60 days in jail.
Jeffrey Gahagan, 57, pleaded guilty in August to Class B theft for stealing from the Kiwanis Club in Milo over the course of three years.
Gahagan fought to hide tears when he addressed the court before being sentenced.
“I stand before you today ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed and full of remorse,” said Gahagan to Justice William Anderson in Piscataquis County Superior Court. “[The Kiwanis Club] entrusted me with the responsibility as treasurer and with the financial well-being of accounts and I failed miserably.
“My actions were inexcusable. I will forever hurt inside for what I’ve done,” said Gahagan. “I feel I have let down members of the Milo community — a community I hold dearly to my heart. I’m truly sorry for my actions.”
Gahagan had already repaid $45,000, the amount originally reported missing from the club’s accounts, before pleading guilty to the theft in August. He still owes $3,828.60 that has since been discovered missing, which must be repaid in a year’s time.
Gahagan’s wife Amber repaid the bulk of the $45,000 through her retirement account, said Gahagan’s attorney Dale Thistle of Newport.
Five members of the community, including current and former Milo selectmen, spoke in defense of Gahagan.
Richard Martin of Milo said he was a friend and former employee of Gahagan’s.
“Before this, he was a model citizen,” said Richard Martin. “It will take him a lifetime to earn back the trust of many.”
Martin noted that Gahagan had stayed in his house and rarely left due to embarrassment, and even let his lawn grow for weeks without mowing it. Martin said he helped get Gahagan out of the house and walked with him. Gahagan had lost 40 pounds since he resigned as both Milo’s town manager and the Kiwanis Club treasurer in April, he said.
Many who spoke in Gahagan’s defense, including his own daughter, said they were stunned to learn of the money he had stolen from the Kiwanis Club.
“We were just as shocked as everyone else,” said Sarah Gahagan, who cried through some of her statement.
She said her father was struggling with what to do about the situation he was in. He even thought about suicide, she said.
“I’m much happier to speak here than at my father’s funeral,” said Sarah Gahagan.
Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts said Gahagan had been using the Kiwanis Club as his personal bank for a number of years. Gahagan would regularly withdraw money from the club and then redeposit the money without anyone knowing, he said.
The Three Rivers Kiwanis Club of Milo and Brownville changed banks in 2008, said Roberts, forcing Gahagan to borrow money to deposit into the club’s account so no one would notice.
“He didn’t learn from those incidents,” said Roberts.
Much of the nearly $50,000 that Gahagan was charged with stealing was used to pay for his extended family’s needs, said Roberts.
“Not all of it was used for useful purposes,” said Roberts.
He said $16,786 was spent at Hollywood Slots, now Hollywood Casino, in Bangor.
However, Gahagan has no prior criminal history and he “took responsibility when confronted by the Kiwanis and by police,” said Roberts.
Because of that, said Roberts, he requested a cap of nine months in Piscataquis County Jail. Thistle asked for no jail time.
“This is a good man who has done a bad thing,” said Thistle outside the courthouse. “In part, he did a bad thing because he has an addictive behavior.”
Roberts said he was concerned about the court sending the right message that stealing is wrong, no matter how it’s done.
Justice Anderson said Gahagan having repaid most of the money and his loss of status in the community were factors in his decision to order a lighter sentence.
Sixty days “is less than the state wants and more than the defense is asking for,” said Anderson. “[But] I don’t see how anyone could steal $45,000 and not spend time in jail.”
Thistle said that with good behavior, Gahagan likely will spend 50 days in jail. He will not be on probation following his release.