Second Advocates embezzler sentenced on Tuesday | CraigDailyPress.com

Second Advocates embezzler sentenced on Tuesday

Janelle O'Dea

Renee Virden

— Renee Virden pled guilty to a Class 5 felony of theft up to $20,000 for embezzling from Advocates Crisis Support Services last year.

Virden was sentenced to three years of community corrections, a rehabilitative local program. She could be released early on good behavior.

District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District Sherry Caloia said Virden was more cooperative than her partner in crime Kimberly Gardner. Gardner was sentenced two weeks ago to three years in prison on one charge of theft between $20,000 and $100,000.

Garden was charged with Class 3 felony theft of more than $100,000 and Class 4 felony embezzlement. Gardner's plea does not cap her restitution at $100,000. Her restitution will be what she stole, and Caloia said it's about $325,000.

Gardner's earliest possible parole date could come a year and a half from now, Caloia said.

Virden paid back $50,000 of her $105,000 restitution. Gardner has not made any payments toward her restitution, Caloia said.

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According to Advocates Executive Director Sharon Farquhar, the staffing and funding levels are back to normal at the organization.

"A really important thing for the public to know is that we're still here," Farquhar said.

Although Farquhar believes trust and friendship are important parts of a strong organization, she'll keep a closer eye on the organization's books.

"I guess we're hopeful that there will be some important lessons learned by the individuals who were involved," Farquhar said. "I think the other lesson we would hope that is taken from this is that everybody, whether it's a mom and pop grocery store on the corner or a large business or a small nonprofit, that we all really do need to follow the advice of proper accounting procedures."

Farquhar knows after such deception by employees, trust is especially important to the organization's successful operation.

"Trust is a necessary part of every endeavor but it has to be balanced with proper accountability and oversight," Farquhar said. "There are certainly people who are willing to take advantage of anything if they feel somebody's not looking."

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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