A Newport woman who embezzled more than $325,000 from two not-for-profit organizations was sentenced Thursday in federal court to two years in prison.
Sheri G. Walsh, 57, also was ordered to pay restitution of $325,621 for the money that she stole from the Hancock County Planning Commission in Ellsworth and the Maine chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Walsh worked for the planning commission, first as administrative assistant and then as acting executive director, and also served as treasurer for the women’s group when she embezzled the money over a period of roughly four years.
Walsh was ordered to start serving her prison sentence on July 28, 2021, and to serve three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison.
The repeated thefts, which involved Walsh fraudulently transferring money between the two organizations and issuing checks to herself, were discovered in May 2019 after Walsh had been injured in a car crash in Dedham the previous month. She missed a couple of weeks of work at the commission, and when a board member went to the commission’s offices in her absence to pay some of the group’s bills, he discovered money was missing from its bank accounts and contacted police.
Walsh was charged in federal court because the planning commission had received federal funds during her embezzlement scheme. From August 2018 to April 2019, it received more than $100,000 in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and more than $16,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to court documents.
She pleaded guilty in December to federal charges of wire fraud and theft from a program receiving federal funds.
The thefts had a significant impact on the planning commission, where Walsh was the sole employee at the time of her arrest and which essentially shut down for more than a year while it sorted through the fallout. The organization hired a new executive director last summer and has reorganized its accounting policies so that its books are reviewed monthly by two outside consultants, commission officials have said.