By Daniel Karell
GEORGETOWN — Former Western Brown Youth Soccer Association treasurer Sondra “Sandy” McNutt didn’t escape a jail sentence at her sentencing on Wednesday, June 3 for a felony charge of grand theft.
Brown County Court of Common Pleas Judge Scott T. Gusweiler gave McNutt a 90-day sentence at the Brown County Adult Detention Center, in addition to placing her on five years of community control, mandating her to have two meetings with her probation officer per week, and ordering her to pay restitution of $40,090.42 back to the Western Brown Youth Soccer Association.
“When you’re done serving those 90 days (in jail), I’m going to expect you to do everything in your power to repay those individuals,” Judge Gusweiler said.
Court documents reveal that from July 2009 through the October 2013, there were numerous inconsistencies in the WBYSA’s bank account. Upon further inspection, WBYSA officers discovered a pattern of embezzlement and alleged forgery by McNutt in her position as treasurer.
In that time span, McNutt milked the WBYSA bank account dry, turning a positive balance of $7,396.48 into a negative balance of $1,693.21. McNutt used the organization’s account for her personal benefit, using money from the account to pay a mortgage payment on at least two occasions (June 2010 and June 2011), insurance payments, phone bills, a tanning salon service, and more.
She also withdrew cash from the account for herself and wrote 90 checks from WBYSA’s account to her personal bank account.
In addition, she allegedly forged the signature of former registration coordinator Karey Dixon on 14 WBYSA checks to herself and wrote 30 more checks out to her husband or to cash.
The evidence from the WBYSA was turned over in January 2014 to Mt. Orab detective Jason Hahn and Police Chief Bryan Mount, who took the case forward. Charges of grand theft a fourth-degree felony, and forgery, a fifth-degree felony, were brought to McNutt nearly 12 months later on Dec. 19, 2014.
McNutt was arraigned three days before Christmas and released on $10,000 bond.
McNutt changed her original plea from not guilty to a guilty plea on April 6 in exchange for the state of Ohio dropping the charge of forgery.
On Wednesday, the sentencing actually began with a restitution hearing, with both the prosecution, led by assistant Brown County Prosecutor Chris Van Harlingen, and defense attorney Jeffrey Hale cross examining Detective Hahn. The hearing was called because neither side could agree on the right amount for restitution, with the defense claiming that the prosecution’s amount for money stolen from WBYSA in cash was incorrect.
The prosecution went through each detail of McNutt’s alleged actions, discussing under Judge Gusweiler’s watchful eye nearly every fraudulent act committed. Hahn revealed McNutt received cash deposits from the WBYSA bank account in 2009 ($3,392.48), 2010 ($4,206), and 2011 ($640). He also showed how thousands of dollars from the WBYSA account went into her personal bank account; $805.10 in 2009, $3,516.66 in 2010, $2,857.40 in 2011.
Hahn also discussed how he found that McNutt had written 49 checks either to herself, her husband, or to cash, for a total of $14,942.48. During the prosecution’s questions, McNutt held her hands in front of her face, as if to shield herself from Hahn’s revelations.
When it was time for the defense to question Detective Hahn, Hale tried to throw a wrench into the prosecution’s plan by asking Hahn to search a large stack of evidence for a single check.
While Hahn searched for the check, Judge Gusweiler called a recess and stepped out of the courtroom. Then, in a stunning turn of events, McNutt told Hale that she would agree to the prosecution’s restitution amount. The prosecution quickly returned to their table and Judge Gusweiler was hastily returned to the courtroom.
After ensuring that McNutt was serious about her decision, the court moved to sentencing.
“We trusted Sandy for several years as our treasurer and we thought that she was very passionate about the kids, our association, and soccer itself,” Dunn said in her statement to the court. “But in reality, (we found) that she was only there to pad her pockets.
“To find out that we had everything we worked for taken away, not to mention several bills that went unpaid. Our reputation of the soccer association has been damaged. It’s very difficult to do business with people in our community because no one wants to trust us. I personally trusted Sandy and I’m appalled by the deception that she showed.”
Judge Gusweiler listened to a statement from WBYSA president Kim Dunn before proceeding to making his sentence.
Judge Gusweiler ordered that McNutt serve a 90-day jail sentence at the Brown County Adult Detention Center, beginning immediately, along with five years of community control. McNutt must meet with her probation officer twice a week, and she must pay restitution to the WBYSA twice a month. She was also ordered to have no contact or indirect contact with WBYSA and pay the court costs.
If McNutt doesn’t comply by the rules of her probation, she could end up in prison for a 14-month span, with another possible seven-month span to follow. If she breaks the rules again, she could serve the rest of her probation sentence in prison as well.
“I could put you back into the jail for a period of time, but I’m not probably going to do that, I’m going to send you to prison if you don’t take care of your responsibilities to those children and those parents,” Judge Gusweiler said. “That’s another main reason why you’re not going to prison, because I want that made whole, they deserve to be made whole, and they will be made whole.”
Dunn admitted her surprise that McNutt received a 90-day jail sentence but is glad to put the whole affair behind her.
“We’re just glad that it’s over,” Dunn said outside the courthouse following the sentencing. “That we can move on from here, grow, and maybe help other associations make sure that their checks and balances are in order.”
Dunn said that the McNutt fiasco has taught WBYSA a valuable lesson about keeping their finances in order, and they have already undergone a number of changes.
“We now have three people in the banking account,” she explained. “Within our meetings, we are required to have the treasurer’s report matching the bank statement. We never had the bank statement before.”