The former finance director of Women Unlimited, founded in 1988 to help Maine residents earn a livable wage, has been sentenced to 13 months in federal prison for stealing more than $100,000 from the nonprofit.
Jessica Childs, 39, of Litchfield pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, related to her unauthorized use of a company credit card.
She was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Childs’ began embezzling from the company in 2010, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case. Her actions were uncovered five years later.
“The discovery of her crime caused WU to lose its funding sources,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff said in the document. “The non-profit, already operating on a shoestring budget, never recovered. It permanently closed its doors in March 2016.”
Childs’ attorney, Stacey Neumann of Portland, in her sentencing memorandum described her client’s childhood with alcoholic parents as chaotic and abusive. Childs once witnessed “her father, in a drunken rage, grab her beloved kitten and throw it out the window where it landed on the lit grill and died.”
After her theft was discovered, Childs took her prescription medications and walked into the Kennebec River in an effort to end her life, Neumann wrote. Childs decided she wanted to live, called 911 and was rescued.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby sentenced Childs to five years of supervised release. He allowed her to continue to remain free on personal recognizance bail until Feb. 5, when she must report to a penal institution designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Hornby ordered Childs to pay $43,072 in restitution in addition to the $60,000 she already has paid.
Childs faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, she faced between 15 and 21 months in prison. The prosecutor recommended Childs serve 18 months.
Neumann urged Hornby to send Childs to prison for one month, followed by 13 months of home confinement.
Information about why it took so long for the case to come before Honby was not available Sunday.
To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.