Saturday, July 24, 2010

Theft from Arkansas State University brings 41 months Ex-worker must repay $733,008.85

A judge sentenced a former Arkansas State University employee who diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for the school into a personal checking account to 41 months in federal prison Friday.Before she was sentenced, Virginia DeMaine, 57, told U.S. District Judge Brian Miller that she began taking the money to help fund a shopping compulsion triggered by her desire to please people, said ASU interim Provost Glen Jones, who attended the hearing in Little Rock.Miller sentenced DeMaine to 41 months on one count of mail fraud and 41 months on one count of money laundering with both sentences running concurrently beginning Aug. 30. He also ordered DeMaine, who had pleaded guilty to both charges in April, to repay $733,008.85 to the university."She asked to be sentenced to prison so she could be punished for what she had done," her attorney, Bill Bristow, said after the hearing."She expressed great remorse and told the judge that she knew she deserved to be punished." Bristow said he and De-Maine felt Miller served "justice tinged with some mercy" in doling out De-Maine's sentence.DeMaine of Jonesboro faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud and 10 years for money laundering. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.Bristow said his client believes she will always punish herself for what she did as the university's Childhood Development Services coordinator.DeMaine was hired as the services coordinator Aug. 1, 1994, and served in that role until her termination July 15, 2009.She diverted amounts ranging from $8,933 to $143,322 each year, according to an Arkansas Legislative Joint Auditing Committee report.Bristow said his client will pay the university a percentage of her income "for the rest of her life." Jones and ASU System interim President Robert Potts said they were pleased with the sentence and that the judge ordered DeMaine to repay the money."We feel that sends a strong signal to those who might be tempted to embezzle state funds, or any funds, that that will not be tolerated in the state of Arkansas," Potts said.Childhood Development Services is a national credentialing program for students to receive certification in early-childhood professions.DeMaine took payments intended for ASU Childhood Development Services and deposited them into an account she created at Regions Bank in Jonesboro under the name "Virginia DeMaine-Childhood Services." Jane Duke, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said earlier this year that DeMaine would mark out "Arkansas State University" on payments and leave "Childhood Services" in order to divert the money into her own account.ASU officials were alerted to a problem June 23, 2009, when someone from Beebe Public Schools contacted ASU about a duplicate payment of $1,225. The school system had requested a refund because no credit for the first payment was recorded, but the check had been processed by Regions Bank.After receiving a copy of the canceled checks, ASU conducted an audit of payments made to Childhood Development Services."During the time period of this fraud, colleges across the state were suffering budget cuts and students were seeing increases in tuition," Duke said in a news release Friday."It is unthinkable that someone charged with the responsibility of promoting education and professional development in our state would divert much-needed funds in this manner."

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