FARMINGTON — The ex-treasurer of the Care and Share Food Closet in Farmington pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $306,000 from the nonprofit organization over a period of nearly 10 years.

Mary O’Donal, 74, of Farmington was the sole handler of finances for the organization from the 1970s until she resigned in November 2015. The embezzlement began in the early 2000s, according to officials. 

O’Donal spoke softly as she entered her guilty plea to a charge of Class B theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Her attorney, Christopher Berryment, was by her side in Franklin County Superior Court.

The maximum punishment for a conviction on a Class B crime is up to 10 years in prison, Justice Robert Mullen said. The maximum fine is $20,000.

Under a negotiated plea agreement, the sentence is proposed at three years with all but 30 days suspended, Assistant District Attorney Claire Andrews told the court.

Sentencing is set for March 9.

Advertisement

As part of the agreement, O’Donal is required to deed her house to the Care and Share Food Closet on Fairbanks Road and enter into an occupancy agreement to live in the house, Andrews said.

She also must pay $291,000 in restitution, she said. Another stipulation is that she not act in any financial capacity for any nonprofit organization.

O’Donal returned $15,000 of the missing money to Farmington Police Detective Marc Bowering while he was conducting an investigation into a discrepancy of funds at the closet.

If the case had gone to trial, closet Executive Director Leiza Hiltz Scerbo, who was new to the job in 2015, was prepared to testify she discovered discrepancies while reviewing the closet’s financial records. After making that discovery, she went to the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office to speak to state prosecutors. They contacted Bowering to look into the missing funds.

Hiltz Scerbo would have testified that no account information or paper records could initially be obtained, and that some information was missing, Andrews said. O’Donal closed the checking account when she resigned.

Multiple checks were discovered to be made out to O’Donal and marked down to grocery stores in the area, but there were no receipts or evidence to back up those purchases.

Advertisement

Hiltz Scerbo would also testify that the checking account was in O’Donal’s name and that she was the sole person in charge of the account and checks were made out to her, Andrews said. 

After O’Donal was indicted in August 2016, the state was able to obtain account information from the bank.

Once a complete financial review was completed, it was determined that between January 2010 and Jan. 30, 2015, there was $117,000 taken. Over the years, $306,000 had been taken, Andrews said.

Bowering was prepared to testify that some checks were made out in increments of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 to O’Donal or grocery stores and marked down as being spent for groceries. He would also have testified that O’Donal was cooperative during the investigation and admitted to taking the money.

Checks for legitimate expenses were usually made out in uneven amounts.

O’Donal plans to address the court during sentencing, Berryment said.

Advertisement

Representatives of the Care and Share Food Closet are also expected to address the court.

Hiltz Scerbo said last year that she changed accounting methods to an approved checks-and-balances system. It’s implemented by a four-person financial team, which was set up to mirror the financial system of the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry, Hiltz Scerbo said last year.

The Care and Share Food Closet is a project of the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry and receives federal funds and money from donations.

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

[email protected]

Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington

Mary O’Donal of Farmington 

Comments are not available on this story.