Woman sentenced in Advocates embezzlement case | CraigDailyPress.com

Woman sentenced in Advocates embezzlement case

Janelle O'Dea

Kimberly Gardner

— One of the women involved in the conspiracy at Advocates Crisis Support Services was sentenced to three years in prison this week.

Kimberly Gardner pled guilty to one charge of theft between $20,000 and $100,000. Gardner was charged with class 3 felony theft of more than $100,000 and class 4 felony embezzlement.

District Attorney Sherry Caloia said Gardner's plea would not cap her restitution at $100,000. Her restitution will be what she stole, and Caloia said it's about $325,000.

Caloia said often in cases of embezzlement, the money is not completely recovered.

"She'll be required to pay it back but the reality is that her job possibilities when she gets out of prison will be diminished," Caloia said. "And she will not be able to pay it back at a rate that is what I would consider reasonable."

But Caloia said Gardner’s sentence was a "very good result."

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"It's not just stealing, it's getting into somebody's confidence and acting as if you're trustworthy and having these people rely on you and then you find out they have been taking money under your nose," Caloia said. "That's really sad."

Educational and work-study type programs will be available to Gardner in prison to help her learn to live a different lifestyle.

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

Renee Virden, the other member of the Advocates Crisis Support Services conspiracy team, will be sentenced at 3 p.m. on Jan. 27 at the Moffat County Courthouse.

Virden will plead guilty to a class 5 felony theft up to $20,000 charge. Caloia said she has a lesser charge because Gardner has more culpability in this case and Virden has been more cooperative during the investigation.

Sharon Farquhar, executive director of Advocates Crisis Support Services, said situations like this, no matter the sentence or outcome, never lead to good feelings but at the organization, they're satisfied.

"We were feeling that with the amount of money that was taken and the long, long time over which this conspiracy happened, it was very appropriate there be an actual prison sentence," Farquhar said.

She also said the organization is back up to full staff, and even with all of the time spent on digging up information for the investigation, she sees no evidence that client services suffered.

Most of the organization's losses came from what Caloia called a "very, very selfish act." Gardner and Virden cut employee benefits and took the money that would have been used to fund those benefits. Farquhar said they're still working through restoring all of the benefits.

Farquhar said the organization's funding levels are what they have been in the past, as well. But they're not budgeting the restitution money into anything yet.

"We know what the DA's office asked for, but as to how much we will be paid back and when, we don't know at this time," she said.

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

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