BANGOR, Maine — Rather than go to trial, a Palmyra woman pleaded no contest Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in connection with the theft of $20,000 from the Sebasticook Valley Community Center in Newport.
Jaime Meservey, 37, was indicted a year ago on one count of theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B crime. Her jury trial before Superior Court Justice William Anderson was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
A no contest plea results in a conviction.
Her plea agreement with the Maine attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, calls for Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin to recommend a sentence of two years with all but six months suspended and three years of probation.
Meservey also will be ordered to pay $20,591 in restitution, Robbin said.
Meservey’s attorney, Walter McKee, will be free to argue for a lesser sentence.
Her sentencing is expected to be set in May.
Meservey was convicted of taking cash from the nonprofit, which was contracted by the town of Newport to run its recreation program in the former armory, between November 2008 and January 2010, while she was working there as a part-time bookkeeper, Robbin told Anderson on Monday. Instead of depositing cash generated from beano games and other events, Meservey either deposited it in her own account or kept it.
“She was working on every day the deposits went missing,” the prosecutor said. “Eighteen of the 54 missing deposits, she put in her own account at the same credit union the center used.”
On one occasion, a woman on the center’s board won $2,500 at beano and donated the money to the center, Robbin said after the hearing ended.
“She donated it back to the center, but Ms. Meservey didn’t deposit it,” the prosecutor said. “The defendant also used money she’d stolen from the center to pay for her children to participate in summer programs at the center.”
Board members discovered the theft after a couple of checks bounced, Robbin said. The financial information prepared by Meservey reported there was $15,000 in the credit union accounts when there was only $2,500.
Defense attorney McKee said his client decided to enter a plea to the charge because she risked a more significant sentence if she had gone to trial and been found guilty.
“If we had proceeded to trial, the evidence would have shown that there was significant financial disarray at the center well before Jaime Meservey ever got there,” he said. “Jaime Meservey was the one left holding the bag.”
Pam Newcomb, chairwoman of the center’s board, attended Monday’s hearing but declined to comment on Meservey’s no contest plea. Newcomb said she would speak for the board at sentencing.
“We really appreciate all the work done on this case by Newport Police Chief [Leonard] Macdaid and the attorney general’s office,” she said. “We would never have gotten this far at all without all their hard work.”
As a result of the theft, the town ended its relationship with the nonprofit and began running its own recreation program in the former armory, now called the Newport Recreation Center, according to Newcomb. The SVCC still exists as a nonprofit but is no longer offering any programs.
Meservey remains free on $500 bail.
Class B crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.