ALFRED, Maine — A Scarborough man who bilked an American Legion post out of $50,000 and used a portion of it to open a Portland bar was sentenced Tuesday in York County Superior Court to five years in prison with all but six months suspended.
Ryan J. Byther, 36, also was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to American Legion Post 56 in York, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
In February, Byther was convicted by a jury of theft by deception following a two-day trial, a press release issued Wednesday by the attorney general’s office said.
In addition to prison time, Superior Court Justice John O’Neil sentenced Byther to three years of probation after he completes his prison term, according to the press release.
The judge ordered Byther to begin serving his sentence on June 16, according to Brenda L. Kielty, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
The Scarborough man has not yet begun paying restitution, she said Wednesday.
Byther was working as a general contractor in early 2008 for the American Legion post on a new building project, the press release said. He told Legion officials he was an experienced professional fundraiser and could manage their $2 million fundraising campaign, according to the attorney general’s office. Evidence was introduced at trial that showed Byther had never been licensed as a fundraiser and had no experience in fundraising.
The Legion paid Byther a retainer of $50,000 in March 2008 but he never raised any money for the post, according to the press release. Byther instead used the funds on his other business pursuits, including the Prost Tap House and Club Onyx, a bar and nightclub he opened in June 2008 in the Old Port section of Portland. The business failed several months later.
“The American Legion is a valuable resource to so many in the York area,” Attorney General William Schneider said in the press release. “Stealing from this kind of community-based organization really takes away from Maine families and neighborhoods. This sentence reflects the seriousness and impact of this crime.”
Byther faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 due to the amount of money involved.