Glenburn woman gets 18 months for embezzling $100,000 from beagle rescue group

Leanne Parks, 39, of Glenburn (left)  with her attorney Walter McKee at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Leanne Parks, 39, of Glenburn (left) with her attorney Walter McKee at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted May 21, 2013, at 6:52 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Glenburn woman was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison with all but 18 months suspended for stealing nearly $100,000 from B.O.N.E.S., a beagle rescue organization, over a four-year period while she was its president.

Leanne Parks, 39, also was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $94,655 in restitution.

Before being sentenced, Parks pleaded guilty to one count of Class B theft.

District Court Judge Gregory Campbell stayed her sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham until June 21.

Parks, who co-founded Beagles of New England States in 2003, systematically diverted funds intended to pay veterinary bills, buy dog food and supplies for the rescued dogs, and to reimburse volunteers for expenses, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who prosecuted the case, told Campbell. Between July 2005 and June 2009, when the theft was uncovered by other B.O.N.E.S. board members, Parks diverted more than half the checks written to the organization to a secret bank account, Robbin said. Parks spent the money for personal expenses at retails stores, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Victoria’s Secret, Linens ‘n Things, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, The Children’s Place, the Gap, Old Navy, L.L. Bean, Dollar Tree, Reny’s, Payless Shoes, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, Shaw’s and Hannaford Bros.

The amount stolen totaled $114,930 but due to the six-year statute of limitations, Parks could only be charged with stealing $94,655, Robbin told the judge.

The prosecutor said after the hearing that Parks had paid nothing toward restitution before sentencing.

Sharon Vartanian, treasurer of B.O.N.E.S., said that the organization had lost more than money. The New Boston, N.H., woman said the trust in the organization had been damaged, volunteers had left and it was unclear whether the group would ever regain its former status. While the theft had been hard on members of the organization, the dogs suffered the most, Vartanian said.

“While these numbers will change depending on who you talk to, assuming the average medical cost per beagle, during 2005 to 2009, was about $400, we were not able to help approximately 285 beagles,” she told the judge. “On average, we take in about 100 to 110 beagles a year. Two hundred eighty-five beagles is almost three years’ worth of animals. Imagine what it would have been like if we could have saved all these dogs or taken in very sick dogs and helped them recover versus euthanizing them.”

She estimated that 190 dogs may have been euthanized because B.O.N.E.S. did not have the funds to care for them.

Defense attorney Walter McKee of Augusta submitted more than 30 letters in support of Parks. Some of them were from other B.O.N.E.S. volunteers and her former colleagues at the Bangor Police Department, he told the judge.

Parks worked as a dispatcher for the Bangor police from June 16, 2009, until Feb. 4, 2013, when she resigned from the position, according to Melissa Borden, human resource specialist for the city of Bangor. Parks was placed on paid administrative leave May 14, 2012, and unpaid administrative leave July 8, nearly two weeks after her indictment June 27 by the Penobscot County grand jury, Borden said Tuesday after Parks was sentenced.

She also served on the board of the Bangor Humane Society for several years beginning in 2002.

Parks’ ex-husband said the mother of the couple’s two children, ages 7 and 9, was a woman devoted to her family and animals, especially the dogs she helped rescue.

“Not one dog was ever left in a kennel, not one dog was ever left in a shelter and not one dog was ever left in an abusive situation,” Brhaun Brodrick Parks of Kenduskeag told Campbell. “She made it a mission to rescue every dog that she heard about.

“And based on facts, she rescued more dogs in a shorter time with the organization than has been rescued since,” he continued. “Because if no other foster home would take the dog, which was the case time and time again, we would take that dog in until room was available.”

Leanne Parks told Campbell that she took responsibility for her actions.

“I have never wavered from my commitment to rescue dogs,” she said.

Parks said that due to her efforts, about 800 dogs had been rescued.

“About 500 of them, I personally handled,” she told the judge.

Parks said the she might never recover financially from the sentence and restitution order. She said that in order to pay it, she might have to sell her home and car.

McKee did not recommend a specific sentence but asked that it be nine months or less so Parks could serve it at the Penobscot County Jail so it would be easier for her children and family to visit.

Campbell imposed the sentence Robbin recommended.

Parks faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/21/news/bangor/glenburn-woman-gets-18-months-for-embezzling-100000-from-beagle-rescue-group/ printed on August 20, 2014