Four Lone Pine residents, arrested in April on embezzlement related charges, have reached a plea agreement with the Inyo District Attorneys Office.
Former Indian Education Center Director Gary Donnelly, bookkeeper Mary Donnelly, bookkeeper/office manager Mary Jefferson, and the assistant to the Director Sara Jefferson, had been charged with grand theft by embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds from the Lone Pine Indian Education Center.
Inyo District Attorney Art Maillett reports that his office investigated the allegations for over a year, with co-operation from the US Department of Education and the California Department of Education. Maillet reports that the investigation was hampered by missing and or destroyed records at the Indian Education Center. In the end, after serving ten search warrants, investigators were able to obtain and reconstruct the missing records which Maillet reports showed that the accused had used Indian Education Center Credit Cards to buy personal items like furniture and clothing at a long list of retail stores and used the credit cards to pay for Direct TV, XM radio, Verizon, and other on-line shopping purchases.
With a complicated case, the Inyo Supervisors had approved Maillets request to hire former DA Phil McDowell to help with the case. Maillet credits McDowells presentation of the evidence at the preliminary hearing with reaching the plea agreement.
Former director Gary Donnelly, bookkeeper Mary Donnelly, and bookkeeper Mary Jefferson entered felony no contest pleas to charges of misappropriation of public funds. Sara Jefferson, the assistant to the Director, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor grand theft by embezzlement, and in a separate case pleaded no contest to writing checks with insufficient funds in her checking account.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 5. Maillet reports that all four defendents will be placed on probation, serve local time, and be required to pay restitution. The DA also says that as a result of state audits, the Lone Pine Indian Education Center has been closed and is unlikely to re-open.