Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Former Bellevue city clerk goes to jail

Loughmiller sentenced to 180 days for embezzlement


Lacey Ann Loughmiller

A former Bellevue city clerk was taken to jail Tuesday after being sentenced to 180 days incarceration for embezzling money from the city.

However, Lacey Ann Loughmiller won't be serving her time in Blaine County. Instead, 5th District Court Judge John K. Butler sentenced her to the state's "rider program," under which convicted felons are given an opportunity for treatment, normally at the North Idaho Correctional Facility in Cottonwood.

Butler also gave Loughmiller a seven-year suspended prison sentence, fined her $1,000, placed her on seven years probation and ordered her to repay the money she embezzled.

"I do take embezzlement very seriously," Butler said. "Everyone needs to understand that we do not tolerate this behavior."

Defense attorney Anthony M. Valdez told the court that his client had "unforeseen medical problems" and "significant financial stress" at the time she embezzled.

"These are the circumstances behind the case—if they hadn't been there she wouldn't have done it," Valdez said.

Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback insisted that incarceration was necessary because of the gravity of the crime.

"If she's just allowed to pay this money back—no harm, no foul—it sends a wrong message to the public," Fredback said.

Loughmiller apologized for her crime, saying, "I am deeply sorry."

Loughmiller pleaded guilty to embezzling in October under a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office, which agreed not to ask for a lengthy prison sentence.

Loughmiller, a 30-year-old Richfield resident, was charged in February with stealing almost $14,000 from the city between May and December of 2007 when she worked as an administrative clerk for the Bellevue Water and Sewer Department. She resigned in February 2008 after an investigation was initiated into the missing funds.

A probable cause affidavit filed with the court by former Bellevue Marshal Ron Taylor states that Loughmiller embezzled money from utility payments and kept false records to hide the theft.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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