Franklin Countys First News

Food pantry treasurer pleads guilty to stealing more than $300,000

Mary O'Donal

Mary O'Donal

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.

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31 Responses »

  1. Unbelievable $ 300,000 ! What?,why? ....

  2. This crime is particularly upsetting because...that food pantry only gives out one bag of food once per month to those in NEED.

  3. Was everyone caught off-guard by this person doing this? Can't help wondering if her "life style" changed with the theft of this amount of money; was the money spent on material goods, to pay off some kind of debt, to help someone else, such as another family member, etc.?

    She had $15K of the stolen money in cash at the time of her arrest. Because she was going to make a large purchase? Because she was afraid to spend it?

  4. And all they recommend is 30 days in jail??? And she gets to continue to live in her house after she signs it over for restitution? This is a slap on the wrist for major embezzlement. Some folks get more jail time for shoplifting diapers for the baby because they're broke. I guess white collar crime is not REAL crime?? Unbelievable.

  5. "both parties indicated that the arranged plea includes a three-year, partially suspended sentence and hundreds of thousands of dollars of restitution."

    I'm curious as to where this restitution money is supposed to come from. No mention was made of any seized assets, and where would an elderly convicted felon find employment that would pay enough to support that amount of payback?

    Restitution sounds good in theory, but I beg leave to doubt that any more than a token amount will ever be recovered.

  6. Looks like crime does pay. Only 30 days for the theft of 300k?

  7. I know this lady by working with her briefly in the past, who knows what really happened . That's an awful lot of money. Just sayin

  8. Seems like not much of a punishment.

  9. You are correct about getting ONE bag when this theif Mary was running the pantry but as a ex volunteer under the new director the recipients get a lot more than one bag of food up there ! They receive canned goods , peanut butter, rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce , dry or canned milk and sometimes fresh if available, variety of desserts they can make and desserts from Hannaford that were donated, fresh potatoes, variety of fresh fruit and vegetables a majority of the time , yogurts, frozen meals , breads , wraps, cheese, sliced meat and other essential items . They do the best they can and hm serve over 200 families just in our area on a regular basis . Leiza welcomes volunteers where Mary refused volunteers for many years and now we all can suspect why. So sad for our community.

  10. One wonders how a non profit food pantry can have that much money for someone to steal and still operate.

  11. This make me think of every time in the last many years the food pantry said their shelves were low and requested donations from the community. While this woman stole from our most needy community members.

  12. Happenings like this change us. We are a bit different now that we have seen this.

  13. The pantry provides much more than one bag of food per month. And they do so for a very large number of people. No one in that organization takes a salary for their efforts. Well, no one, but the old accountant who stole it. The volunteers, donors, and the community they serve are the victims of particularly immoral accountant. While every volunteer and donor sacrificed their time and money to provide for those in need this person was taking a large piece of all of those labors. Incidentally the amount of food provided to the community has doubled since the theft was discovered and the budget was found to be larger than previously reported. Organizations like Care and Share provide a tremendous value to the communities in Maine where food insecurity is a reality for most families. The trash has been taken to the curb. Care and Share's volunteers along with the community they serve need our support through this tragedy.

    I would like to know where the money went as well. That kind of money doesn't just evaporate. While the judgement handed down stipulates repayment it's pretty clear that will never happen.

  14. I just don't know what led this person to do that sort of thing. Very sad indeed for all connected, even Ms. O'Donal..

  15. Does anyone know the contact information to volunteer here or if they need more volunteers?

  16. Another Vet, just in case you missed this part of the article "Additionally, her home would be signed over to Care & Share, with an occupancy agreement signed between O'Donal and the organization."

  17. Volunteer, yes the food pantry is always in need of volunteers. The closet is open from 12-2 Monday through Friday except for snow days and federal holidays. There is a volunteer application to fill out and a variety of jobs that need to be done. Many of these jobs take place when the closet is closed to the public, in the mornings or on weekends. The direct phone at the closet is 7780508. Thank you so much for your interest,
    Therese Hersey, Volunteer Coordinator

  18. Much is being made about the total value of the theft. $306,00 over a total of 11 years it is stated that, this includes $117,000 in the last 5 years of her time there, I don't in any way think this woman should get off so lightly this is so sad all the way around

  19. Therese do you allow young adults to help also? My daughter is 12 and she also enjoys volunteering.

  20. ..."What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive"...

  21. Volunteer, yes with parent presence.

  22. I think this points out some very real problems in our justice system. Maybe it's time to elect our judges. I would probably vote for a different judge next time.

  23. What's not fair is first of all she signed her home over to the good pantry but yet gets to remain in it and secondly what we all don't know is the amount of cash she stole in this figure of 306,000 because it can't be proven because of no paper trail . Her jail sentence is a disgrace. I highly doubt the food pantry will see much of that money being paid back . I was a very active volunteer after Mary stopped being on charge and what a big difference the people would get for food and other items compared to when Mary was in charge. Leiza and the other folks are doing a wonderful job running the place now . Way to go guys and gals ! Shame on you Mary !

  24. does she have a husband, if so, does he have income?

  25. Why would the food pantry want to hold on tto the house ? R ealestate is a huge liability ,Needs to be maintained ,taxes paid etc etc. Even banks don"t want to foreclose unless they can dump the property immediatlly.She should be forced to sel the house herself and turn over the cash.she can get an apartment when she gets out of the slammer.
    The state must have a social worker who can transition her back to the community

  26. Definitely a very sad situation and the true victims are all of the individuals and families that struggle to put even one meal a day on their plates and how many more people suffered due to this senseless and selfish act.

    30 days is prison is disgraceful and disrespectful to this community and the people who support it.

  27. " Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men"

  28. According to the Good Shepard Food Bank a $25 donation will provide 100 meals. Do the math....$300,000 translates to 1.2 million meals for those in NEED! Shame on her!

  29. Sue - Excellent reference point! This really shines a light on the much bigger picture - thank you.

  30. Not defending or criticizing, I tried to find out what a 25 cent meal consists of, and couldn't.