ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former Hancock County employee accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the county by falsifying her time sheet has pleaded guilty to theft, according to attorneys involved in the case.

Janine Gardner, 53, a former corrections officer at Hancock County Jail, agreed last month to a plea agreement that is expected to keep her out of jail for at least a year. Gardner pleaded guilty to a single count of Class B theft, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $20,000, according to Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich.

Povich said Monday that Gardner’s sentencing has been continued until April 2011 to give her time to pay restitution for the $11,550 she stole. If she repays the money in full by then, he said, she’ll have to serve no more than 90 days behind bars for the theft conviction.

“At some point, if you haven’t paid restitution, you don’t get a good sentence,” Povich said of Gardner’s situation.

Povich said that because Gardner worked as a corrections officer in Hancock County, any jail time she receives would be served in a different county.

Jeff Toothaker, Gardner’s defense attorney, said Monday that his client is in the process of finding work so she can repay the money. He said Gardner is trying to sell her house and, if she does so for a decent price, the county could get all of its money back in one payment.

“She’s working diligently to get the restitution money,” Toothaker said. “If that [house] sells, it will make everyone happy.”

Gardner was accused of falsifying her hours at the jail between September 2005 and October 2009.

Gardner was accused of falsifying her hours at the jail between September 2005 and October 2009.

She resigned from her corrections officer job shortly after the allegations came to light.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....