Food pantry treasurer pleads guilty to stealing more than $300,000
FARMINGTON - The long-time treasurer of Care & Share Food Pantry pleaded guilty to felony theft in the Franklin County Superior Court Tuesday morning, admitting to stealing more than $300,000 from the nonprofit organization.
Mary O’Donal, 74, of Farmington, pleaded guilty to theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B felony. Sentencing was continued until March 9, but both parties indicated that the arranged plea includes a three-year, partially suspended sentence and hundreds of thousands of dollars of restitution.
O’Donal began working as treasurer for the Care and Share Food Pantry in the 1970s. It wasn’t until Jan 2015, when newly-appointed Executive Director Leiza Hiltz Scerbo took over leadership of the organization, that O’Donal’s theft was discovered. When Hiltz Scerbo implemented new procedures designed to provide additional oversight of donations she noticed "several discrepancies with the records" according to previous statements by Farmington Police Department Detective Marc Bowering.
With the new system in place, each donation was being processed by a multiple-person financial team, rather than a single individual. O'Donal, who had more than 15 years of experience as the organization's treasurer and was the only signer for the charity's account, resigned her position at the end of 2015.
Hiltz Scerbo had requested all of O'Donal's financial information, receiving a large collection of documents that she and other Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry members began reviewing in late 2015. Within a few months, Hiltz Scerbo said she had "a lot of information" and had decided to go to the police. After an investigation by Bowering, O'Donal was issued a summons charging her with theft in late April. A formal complaint was filed on June 23.
In court, Assistant District Attorney Claire Andrews said that checks in whole amounts: $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 were either written to O'Donal herself or to two local grocery stores, without accompanying paperwork indicating the purchase of food. Those checks, O'Donal admitted to Bowering, represented the money she had stolen from the nonprofit. Legitimate checks used for actual food bank expenses tended to be odd amounts.
O'Donal admitted to stealing more than $117,000 between the years of 2010 and her resignation in 2015, and $306,000 since 2004. She paid back $15,000 of the stolen money after she confessed.
Assistant District Attorney Claire Andrews noted that O’Donal has no previous criminal record. The arranged plan includes a sentence agreed-upon by the state and defense, with the sentencing hearing continued until March 9. As presented Tuesday, the sentence includes three years with all but 30 days suspended, followed by three years of probation.
Terms of probation include not to visit Care & Share Food Pantry, not to serve a nonprofit in any financial capacity and to pay $291,000 back to the organization. Additionally, her home would be signed over to Care & Share, with an occupancy agreement signed between O'Donal and the organization.
O’Donal will reappear on March 9 for sentencing. Representatives of Care & Share Food Pantry are expected to address the court.