Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Buchanan PTO embezzler gets jail in Indiana

Good people can make bad choices. That was the message Berrien County Trial Judge Scott Schofield gave Buchanan resident Jennifer Mollberg when he sentenced her Monday for embezzling more than $33,000 from a Buchanan school organization."You may be a good person, but you made a series of terribly poor choices," Schofield told Mollberg. "One of the lessons I hope the community learns is that even good people are capable of terrible choices."You have the opportunity to teach your children that even good people can be at terrible risk of making poor choices, and you have the opportunity to teach them how to recover," he said. "You feel guilt and shame and you should."Mollberg was the treasurer of the Ottawa Elementary Parent Teacher Organization and embezzled the money in a period between Jan. 1, 2006, and July 30, 2010.
The embezzlement was discovered when Ottawa Elementary Principal Karin Falkenstein reviewed the P.T.O.’ s financial records and found that the fundraising account was overdrawn. The school district has since put checks and balances in place.Mollberg, 44, of Broceus School Road in Buchanan, was sentenced Monday to 90 days in jail for embezzlement over $1,000 and less than $20,000 involving a not for profit/ charitable organization.Schofield said he would consider an early release from jail before the Christmas holiday with the remainder of her jail time added to the 90 days tether that she must served after she gets out of jail.She was also placed on three years of probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. She can not work or volunteer in any position where she has control of other people’s money.She must pay $2,110 in fines and costs and the remaining $4,080 owed in restitution. She and her family have repaid all the money taken except that amount and plan to repay that this week, defense attorney Tim Dowling said.Schofield commended Mollberg for already paying most if not all of the money she took, but said she had betrayed the trust of the school and the community. "You betrayed their trust in a major, major way," he said.He said he fashioned Mollberg’s sentence so that it was similar to other embezzlers’ sentences in recent years. He cited other embezzlement cases involving the Niles schools, the Rotary Club and Polly’s Place women’s shelter.Mollberg said she was ashamed. "I am so ashamed of what I’ve done," she said. "I did intermingle the P.T.O.’ s money with my own. It was wrong to take it, I had no business taking it. The school entrusted me with the money and (I) took advantage of that."Dowling said the embezzlement had been life shattering for Mollberg and her family. "She’s worn the shame and humiliation like a scarlet letter," he said. "She’s paid back all the money and she’s willing to do anything."

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