JOHNSTOWN - The former executive director of Adirondack Mentoring Partners - formerly Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fulton County - was sentenced Thursday in Fulton County Court to 90 days in the county jail for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from that agency and in unemployment benefits.
Margaret Shaver, 40, of 913 County Highway 112, town of Johnstown, was sentenced by Judge Felix Catena to the jail time, as well as five years of probation, as part of a plea arrangement.
"There's so much scamming going on today and it needs to be addressed," Catena said during the proceeding at the county courthouse.
Margaret Shaver, left, stands next to her attorney, Robert Abdella, in the Fulton County main courtroom during her sentencing Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The sentencing was part of Shaver's Feb. 21 guilty plea to one felony count of third-degree grand larceny in satisfaction of charges against her. County Assistant District Attorney James Riley asked Catena to follow that plea arrangement.
The judge said some will think 90 days is not enough, while others would criticize a decision to not commit Shaver to jail. But he said he wants to send a "message" to those who take from the system.
"I do know a crime was committed," Catena said. "But I do know this sentence is appropriate."
Shaver made $68,291 in restitution to three victim agencies through her defense lawyer, Robert Abdella of Gloversville, before being taken away in handcuffs to the jail. Restitution was made to: Adirondack Mentoring Partners - $26,791; United Way of Fulton County - $3,713; and the state Department of Labor - $37,787.
Lisa Pfeiffer, executive director of the United Way, stated today, "I really feel the confidence of the donors has been rocked by this thing."
But, she said, people should continue to contribute and have confidence money is being protected and used wisely.
"This was a very good resolution to this case, and Judge Catena made comments related to the atmosphere of entitlement that is so pervasive today against government agencies," District Attorney Louise Sira said in a prepared statement.
The defendant said before the judge imposed the sentence that she was "sorry," but she noted many letters on her behalf.
"I just hope you take the letters that were sent to you into consideration," Shaver told the judge. "I'm a good person. I accept the responsibility. I'm looking forward to getting out and getting on with the rest of my life."
Catena said he believes Shaver is remorseful and that she is "not the typical person who comes in here."
"There was a significant amount of money taken here," the judge said. "There was a lack of trust. You have a steady work history. But there is way too much of this going on."
Catena said white-collar crime and scams pervade society today, and there is an "entitlement phenomena" going on with people believing there is a "bottomless pit" of money available to take illegally from institutions.
Abdella said his client has "taken responsibility for her actions."
"I would like to thank my client, her husband and her family," Abdella said. "This is a woman from a very strong family."
Shaver was charged last year with stealing more than $43,000 from the nonprofit agency. She also was accused of stealing an additional $37,857 in unemployment benefits.
She had been charged April 18, 2012, by Gloversville police with felony third-degree grand larceny and four misdemeanor counts of second-degree falsifying business records. Gloversville detectives at the time said they began investigating the case in June 2011 after three board members of Adirondack Mentoring Partners came to them with suspicions that money was missing from the nonprofit's accounts.
After the initial investigation, the board completed its own independent audit of its financial files and brought that to Gloversville police in October.
Detectives followed up on the case and called in the state Department of Financial Services' investigators to complete their own audit.
In April 2009, police said, Shaver was approached by her board and was told the organization no longer could afford to support a paid employee. She was given the option to remain involved on a volunteer basis or seek other employment. Police said Shaver chose to stay on as an unpaid employee and continued to sporadically pay herself wages and benefits to which she no longer was entitled.
Detectives say she was taking money from April 2009 through June 2011.
In addition, Shaver was initially charged with falsely filing quarterly reports with the United Way of Fulton County for a 2009-10 after-school mentoring program the organization wasn't offering, despite receiving funding for it.
The after-school mentoring program, funded through an estimated $10,000 United Way grant, was supposed to provide a program where high school athletes would be mentors for elementary school students.
State police investigators in Fonda worked with the state Labor Department and the state Banking and Finance Department to arrest Shaver in August.
That investigation determined that while Shaver was embezzling $43,000 from her agency, she also was illegally collecting the unemployment benefits.
Michael Anich can be reached at email@example.com.