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Church thefts yield 30 months in prison

– She approached the podium with her hands clasped together while a man who came to court with her wiped tears from his eyes with his jacket sleeves.

Having pleaded guilty nearly two years ago to a 10-count federal indictment accusing her of embezzling money from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Garrett, Beth Boger knew she was going to go to prison – but for how long wasn’t clear.

The plea agreement the former bookkeeper had reached with federal prosecutors did not call for a specific term behind bars, but spelled out that she would owe $364,395 in restitution, according to court documents.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Theresa Springmann sentenced Boger to a total of 30 months in prison on each of the 10 counts, but ordered the sentences to be served at the same time.

Springmann allowed Boger to delay reporting to the federal Bureau of Prisons until mid-June to accommodate her children’s school schedules. Boger is in her late 40s.

According to court documents, Boger used the church’s money to support her own lifestyle for about five years, beginning in June 2004 and continuing until April 2009.

The indictment included wire fraud and tax evasion charges. As part of her guilty plea, Boger agreed to repay $364,436 for her conduct and an additional $50,385 in taxes due, according to court documents.

According to the federal indictment, Boger owned a business called Accents by Beth. Beginning June 3, 2004, Boger wrote checks to her business, drawn on the checking account of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Garrett.

She would then deposit the checks into her business account and, a few days later, transfer the money into her personal checking account, court documents said.

That money would then be used to support her household and lifestyle, though court files offer no specifics.

But the church never knew the checks went to Accents by Beth, according to court documents. Instead, Boger would show in the church’s books that the money had gone to pay expenses for the St. Martin’s Clinic, a local nonprofit.

And then, when the cleared checks were returned from the bank to the church, Boger would alter the name of the payee from Accents by Beth to a vendor used by the church, according to court documents.

No one from the church spoke at Boger’s hearing.

Springmann noted the length of Boger’s criminal activity as an aggravating factor in her sentencing.

“You gave no thought to the impact on the church and the ministry,” the judge said.

Boger tearfully apologized to the court and her victims.

“I would like to say how sorry I am for everything,” she said. “For the people I’ve hurt, my family the church. … I am just so sorry.”