The New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Grower’s Association (NHSWGA) is a non-profit that supports that state’s sheep and wool industry, recently pressed charges against one of their own members for embezzlement.
Merrilyn Patch stole around $17,000 from the NHSWGA, and in December of 2014, the group went to the police for help in figuring out where their money had gone. Patch used Association checking accounts and debit cards to make personal purchases, so much so that the embezzlement seriously hurt the Association. They had to cut youth education programs, and reduce their annual scholarship fund from $3,000 to a mere $500. They even had trouble paying their dues to the American Sheep Industry Association, and had to scale back their membership in order to afford insurance.
Patch was charged with felony theft, which normally carries up to a 15-year prison sentence as well as a $4,000 fine. As part of a plea deal though, she will only serve one and a half to three years in prison, and she has to make restitutions to the Association.
Association leadership actually pressed for leniency, as they don’t want to break up Patch’s family. She has a 14-year-old son for whom she is the sole provider, and a 19-year-old daughter in college. Leadership called her an excellent mother, which perhaps implies that she was using some of those funds to support her family, but regardless, her actions significantly hindered the association and hurt many others. That the group asked for leniency was rather generous of them, but the pleas deal does require her to pay them back, which is actually a lot more useful to the Association than her paying a $4,000 dollar fine, or spending 15 years in prison.
Hopefully she will be able to pay them back, probably over the course of several years, and hopefully the Association can recover from the losses while that’s happening, if not before.