Tall cranes dominate the waterfront at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery in this May 2019 photo. A former official for the union representing shipyard employees was sentenced to probation Thursday for stealing more than $57,000 from the union. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The former secretary-treasurer of the union that represents Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation.

Jeffrey Phillips, 65, of Sanford pleaded guilty a year ago to one count of stealing more than $57,000 from the Kittery-based International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 836.

In addition to probation, U.S. District Judge George Singal ordered Phillips to pay a $2,400 fine during a remote hearing in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Phillips, who took the money over a seven-year period beginning in 2010, paid restitution before being sentenced.

Why he stole the money and how he spent it remains a mystery. Phillips has cognitive and memory problems due to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, his attorney, Richard Berne of Portland, told the judge.

Even when Singal directly asked the defendant why he took the money and what he bought with it, Phillips could not explain his actions.

“I’m absolutely puzzled by this,” the judge said.

Phillips apologized for the theft.

“I want to say I’m very sorry, especially to my co-workers,” he said. “I’m sorry for the tarnish I put on the union as well. I hope they can forgive me for what I’ve done.”

Union officials attended the sentencing but did not address the judge.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Phillips faced up to six months in prison and a fine between $2,000 and $20,000.

The two-year probationary sentence was a joint recommendation from Berne and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Perry.