Sunday, April 20, 2014
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling email@example.com
Wendi Willette, the Winslow woman accused of stealing more than $10,000 from local youth athletics groups, could be heading to trial soon if she doesn’t accept a plea bargain from the district attorney.
Willette’s case has been scheduled for a docket call Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court, but Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, said a trial probably will not happen for another month or so. Maloney said a plea deal her office has offered to Willette includes restitution to the victims, but Willette has not accepted the deal, setting the stage for a trial.
Maloney wouldn’t comment on specifics of the deal, but said it had been crafted in consultation with the victims of Willette’s alleged crimes.
“The victims were very reasonable in what they were looking for, so I am hopeful,” Maloney said.
Maloney said Willette’s defense attorney, Sherry Tash, of Augusta, hasn’t rejected the idea of the offer. Tash did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
“There’s so much paperwork to go through, so many receipts,” Maloney said. “She simply hasn’t had the opportunity to go through all of it to make sure that she has a full understanding of the scope.”
Willette, 41, is charged with stealing more than $10,000 from the Winslow High School Wrestling Booster Club, where she was treasurer; and with trying to steal money from the China Girls Field Hockey Team, with which she also was involved with as an organizer.
On Feb. 13, Willette was indicted on three counts of theft, which carry a total maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. Willette pleaded not guilty to the charges in November.
Meanwhile, the head of the wrestling booster club said the group has made great strides in making up for the money it lost.
In August, soon after the scandal broke, the booster club elected Cindy Shaw as president, Terry McGuire as vice president and Lori Fredette as treasurer.
Shaw said club members have worked hard to build the club’s bank balance back up and that the community has responded to their plight.
“The donations started right off after it happened,” she said. “The community has been very generous.”
Using fundraisers, solicitations and concession sales, Shaw said, the club has made a good start on restoring the account balance, which had been reduced from a high of about $20,000 to just $54. It is well below $10,000, she said.
Shaw said she also was holding out hope that some or all of the stolen money might be restored.
“There’s always hope for that,” she said.
Shaw said students and parents involved with the club maintained a positive attitude when the theft was discovered.
“We all knew we needed to move forward,” she said.
She said the club was able to use new donations to fund conferences, so no wrestlers missed opportunities as a result of the theft.
Shaw said the club has instituted new security measures, including having multiple people involved with its financial transactions.
Maloney said one of the charges against Willette is a class B felony, which applies only in cases in which at least $10,000 has been stolen. “The attorney needs to be convinced a class B theft actually occurred,” Maloney said.
Maloney said the crime is particularly serious because one person’s dishonesty can strain relations throughout the community.
“The damage that it does is mainly to people’s trust,” she said. “That’s what’s so sad about this case, is that it causes people to not trust other people in the community, who they work with on a daily basis.”Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @hh_matt