FARMINGTON — The former treasurer of the Share and Care Food Closet is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry on Fairbanks Road, police said.

Farmington police Detective Marc Bowering charged Mary L. O’Donal, 74, of Farmington by summons on a felony count of theft by unauthorized taking in late April, he said.

A conviction on the charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

O’Donal was unavailable for comment Thursday.

She voluntarily resigned as treasurer in November 2015, food closet Executive Director Leiza Hiltz Scerbo said. O’Donal had been treasurer for decades, she said.

The criminal complaint charges the theft happened on or between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 30, 2015.

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Bowering said he was contacted by the District Attorney’s Office to look into a complaint over a discrepancy in funds. He met with representatives of the food closet to review documents. He also spoke to O’Donal.

“A substantial amount of money” was missing, he said, but declined at this time to say how much is believed to have been taken or how it was taken.

O’Donal did return $15,000 and has been very cooperative with police, he said.

She appeared in a Farmington court on June 28. Her bail was set at personal recognizance, according to court documents. Since the charge is a felony and she has not been indicted by a grand jury, she did not enter a plea.

The only bail condition is that she not return to the Care and Share Food Closet.

O’Donal is scheduled to appear Monday, Aug. 1, at Franklin County Superior Court.

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The food closet serves residents from Chesterville, Farmington, New Sharon, New Vineyard, New Portland, North New Portland and Temple who meet federal eligibility guidelines for food insecurity.

Defense attorney Christopher Berryment was appointed to represent O’Donal.

“This is a very recent appointment,” Berryment said Thursday. “I do not have sufficient information to comment at this time.” 

Hiltz Scerbo said when she became executive director of Care and Share Food Closet in 2015, she began rewriting the policies and procedures.

“Based on my principles of good management works, I began restructuring and making up teams,” she said in a written statement. “These changes prompted our discovery of a misuse of funds from previous years. This is devastating to all, but especially everyone who has given so much to make this much-needed charity a success. We trusted in the honesty of this individual due to her reputation and her decades of service work. I understand this issue is still under investigation.”

Individuals who hold positions of public trust must be held to the highest standards of professional conduct, she said. 

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“Misuse of funds given to a charity is very serious and represents a betrayal of the public trust, and of a charity’s mission,” Hiltz Scerbo wrote. “These funds were meant to feed the hungry in our communities, not to be used for any personal gain of anyone entrusted with the disbursement of funds.”   

The organization has had an approved checks-and-balance system since mid-2015. It’s implemented by a four-person financial team, which was set up to mirror the proposed three-person financial system of Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry. The food closet is a project of the ministry.

“Any monetary donation or donation in kind is processed promptly by our four-person financial team with due diligence,” she wrote. “Every team of volunteers we have, dedicate long hours of service to help those in need. I am very proud of their accomplishments and, of all the improvements we have made over this past year.” 

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