Former Mapleton controller gets probation, monitoring for embezzlement
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 05/06/2010 10:47:02 AM MDT
Provo » Jeannie Kay Bell's son was in the military and having financial problems. So Bell, then Mapleton's controller, took postage stamps and gift cards worth $30,000 from the city and sold them on eBay, according to Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson.
"She may have helped her son, but she hurt every citizen in Mapleton," Johnson said Thursday after Bell's sentencing on a second-degree felony theft charge.
Fourth District Judge James R. Taylor sentenced Bell to 90 days in jail, to be served through GPS monitoring that will allow her to go from her home to work or other places that her probation officer will permit.
"You violated a public trust," Taylor told Bell as she stood for sentencing. "You were charged with managing public funds that were put in there by us, and you violated that trust."
Bell will only have to serve 55 of the 90 day sentence. Taylor credited Bell with 35 days time served, including 33 days she spent in a Las Vegas jail after she skipped a court hearing. Taylor said he normally did not give credit for time served in out-of-state jails.
Bell signed over her $25,000 bail to the city to satisfy the order for restitution. The city had agreed to drop $5,000 of the amount requested initially if Bell made payment at sentencing. She still has to reimburse the city $7,900 for a forensic audit to measure the scope of her crime.
"We're glad to get it over," said Douglas A. Baxter, Bell's attorney, after the hearing.
Baxter argued for no jail time, noting Bell's lack of a criminal record and her cooperation with prosecutors and the city.
"Except when she went to Las Vegas," Taylor reminded Baxter. In November, Bell failed to show for a court hearing and was later apprehended in a Las Vegas Strip hotel. Baxter said Bell fled because she had stopped taking antidepressants and suffered an anxiety attack.
As part of her probation, Taylor ordered Bell to go through a mental-health evaluation.
Bell said she is working full time through a temporary employment agency doing bookkeeping and office work. She said the job does not involve handling money or checkbooks. When she is not working, she said she is taking care of her home.
Johnson had argued for a 120-day jail sentence. He reminded Taylor that he had sentenced former BYU employee Allen Harris to 180 days in jail for embezzling $200,000, even though Harris, like Bell, did not have a prior criminal record and was more cooperative.
Mayor Brian Wall did not attend the hearing but said he was satisfied with the sentence. "Our biggest concern was restitution. Anything she experienced in Vegas was worse than the Utah County Jail," he said.
Wall said the city has since revised its financial procedures to prevent a recurrence. Postage meters are used instead of stamps, and gift cards are inventoried and accounted for by two employees.
Bell embezzled the items between January 2007 and June 2009, when the Utah County Sheriff's Office investigated financial irregularities in the city. She resigned in June 2009 and was charged in July.