BANGOR, Maine — A Palmyra woman who was convicted of stealing more than $20,000 from the Sebasticook Valley Community Center in Newport was sentenced Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to three years in prison with all but four months suspended.
Jaime Meservey, 37, also was sentenced to one year of probation, with the condition that she not handle other people’s money. She has no prior criminal history.
She paid $20,591 in restitution before being sentenced.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson ordered that Meservey begin serving her sentence Friday at the Penobscot County Jail.
Meservey pleaded no contest in March to one count of theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B crime, as her jury trial before Anderson was scheduled to begin. A no-contest plea results in a conviction.
She did not address the court Tuesday.
Meservey remains free on $500 bail.
Pam Newcomb, chairwoman of the center’s board, told Anderson that Meservey’s actions “had cast a cloud of doubt over the center” and “put the community in a tailspin.” Newcomb also said that Meservey needed to take responsibility for her actions and apologize to the community.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who prosecuted the case, recommended Meservey be sentenced to three years in prison with all but six months suspended and three years of probation. Meservey’s attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, argued for less jail time.
Meservey was convicted of taking cash from the nonprofit, which was contracted by the town of Newport to run its recreation program in the former armory, between November 2008 and January 2010, while she was working there as a part-time bookkeeper, Robbin told Anderson in March.
Instead of depositing cash generated from beano games and other events, Meservey either deposited it in her own account or kept it.
“She was working on every day the deposits went missing,” the prosecutor said. “Eighteen of the 54 missing deposits, she put in her own account at the same credit union the center used.”
On one occasion, a woman on the center’s board won $2,500 at beano and donated the money to the center, Robbin said after the hearing ended.
“She donated it back to the center, but Ms. Meservey didn’t deposit it,” the prosecutor said Tuesday. “The defendant also used money she’d stolen from the center to pay for her children to participate in summer programs at the center.”
Meservey also spent the money on household expenses, the prosecutor said.
Board members discovered the theft after a couple of checks bounced, Robbin said.
The financial information prepared by Meservey reported there was $15,000 in the credit union accounts when there was only $2,500.
Defense attorney McKee said in March that his client decided to enter a plea to the charge because she risked a more significant sentence if she had gone to trial and been found guilty.
“If we had proceeded to trial, the evidence would have shown that there was significant financial disarray at the center well before Jaime Meservey ever got there,” he said. “Jaime Meservey was the one left holding the bag.”
As a result of the theft, the town ended its relationship with the nonprofit and began running its own recreation program in the former armory, now called the Newport Recreation Center, according to Newcomb. The SVCC still exists as a nonprofit but no longer offers any programs.
Class B crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.