The former Unity College employee convicted of stealing more than $500,000 from her employer — money she used to gamble at casinos, go on a Carnival cruise, pay utilities and much more — was sentenced Tuesday to two years imprisonment in a federal penitentiary.
Beth Bing, 49, of Waterville told U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock she was remorseful for her actions during her sentencing hearing, which took place over Zoom.
But remorse wasn’t enough, the judge said.
“To take half a million dollars from this small college with a unique mission was, in my view, an act of meanness and selfishness,” Woodcock said. “Her motive appears to be merely greed. The defendant has a moral blind spot in her character, and it’s important that the punishment fit this crime.”
Bing began working at Unity College in 2003. Eventually, she was placed in charge of the school’s corporate credit cards, replacing cards, validating credit card purchases and paying credit card bills. She also was Unity’s point of contact with WEX Inc., the Portland-based financial technology company that served as the school’s credit card servicer, according to information presented in the sentencing hearing.
Beginning in 2015, she began using a corporate credit card for her own personal expenses, according to the U.S. attorneys who brought the wire fraud case against her. Those unauthorized charges included personal travel and lodging, cigarettes, automotive repairs, goods from various Walmart stores and purchases of a wedding dress and more from Amazon.com, Bing acknowledged as part of a plea deal.
The purchases continued over the next four years. Bing got access to a corporate card in the name of another employee, then fraudulently obtained two more credit cards in her own name. She gave one of them to her husband to use, and assured him that it was fine to use a corporate card for personal expenses, according to information shared in the sentencing hearing.
Besides gambling at casinos, going on a cruise and paying utility bills, Bing and her husband used the college’s corporate cards to go on cross-country trips and purchase items such as television sets and washing machines, according to the hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Lizotte, who asked the court to sentence Bing to 12 to 24 months in prison, said that Bing’s actions amounted to an egregious betrayal of trust.
“The fraud itself began to occur before it morphed into something much larger and more significant,” he said. “Going for cross-country trips, gambling. These are things that are obviously fraudulent and shouldn’t be done from any employer. Certainly not a small, struggling non-profit college in central Maine.”
Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor said that his client immediately accepted responsibility for her actions and has no criminal history, other than some misdemeanor convictions when she was young. Bing had never been to jail, and thought that a shorter sentence — six months or less — would have a significant impact, he said.
“She got herself into something she never knew how it was going to end,” Tzovarras said. “Now it’s over, and there’s hope that she can pay back whatever she can. Whatever she can pay back and make right, certainly she’ll do that.”
Bing told the court that she would do just that.
“I’m extremely sorry for my actions and my choices,” she said, adding that she knows she betrayed the college’s trust in her. “It also hurt my coworkers and family with the choices that I made. I did truly hurt a lot of people and the college with those actions. My plan for the future is to do whatever I can … pay back whatever I owe the college.”
But Woodcock said it likely wouldn’t be possible for her to repay everything she owes.
“To steal from a college is to steal resources from its students,” he said. “The defendant knows this, but she didn’t care.”
The judge ordered Bing to spend three years on supervised release after she serves her sentence, which will begin in 90 days. She also must pay total restitution of $516,835 to Unity College and to Hanover Insurance Co.
“I’ve considered the nature of her crime. It was deliberate. It was not rash. It was repeated, time and time again over the course of many years. It was covered up by lies,” he said. “I acknowledge that she admitted her crime. But I think the evidence of the crime was literally overwhelming. I credit her only with the knowledge of what she knew was going to happen, namely that her long-term crime would be found out.”