AUBURN — An Oxford woman who worked at a prominent Lewiston law firm pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony theft charge in connection with her alleged embezzlement of more than $100,000.
Amy L. Christiansen, 29, made a brief appearance in Androscoggin County Superior Court, where a judge read the grand jury indictment handed up earlier this month. The indictment charged Christiansen with theft by unauthorized taking, a felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
According to the indictment, Christiansen schemed to steal from Berman & Simmons law firm while working there between 2007 and early 2009. Police declined to give an exact amount of the alleged theft.
In late 2008 and early 2009, law firm officials became aware of financial discrepancies and notified police, who spent months investigating the case.
The firm released a statement following the indictment, saying Christiansen admitted to the alleged theft.
"Last May, the law firm learned that a non-lawyer member of its staff had misappropriated funds from a trust account," according to the statement. "The employee came forward just as an audit by outside accountants was about to begin. The employee confessed that she, acting alone, had taken the money for her personal use."
Christiansen signed an affidavit claiming she was indigent. The court appointed lawyer Amanda Doherty to represent Christiansen, a clerk said.
Justice Roland A. Cole said Christiansen could remain free on personal recognizance but ordered her not to have contact with the law firm. She was served a summons to appear in court, which she did Thursday for the first time on the charge.
A lawyer at Berman & Simmons said a handful of clients were affected by the alleged theft but were quickly made aware of the situation. The firm immediately replaced the stolen trust account money, notified the small group of clients and reimbursed them in full.