Restitution being paid to day care
A balance was struck between restitution and jail time in a Marshall County Circuit Court case Wednesday when a day care center director pleaded guilty and agreed to repay what the state could prove that she'd stolen, officials said.
"It was in the best interest of the center to accept restitution instead of time" in jail for Margaret E. McElroy, the Wee Care Day Care director who was fired by the non-profit organization's board of directors, according to Lynda Sherrell, one of the directors.
Assistant District Attorney Ann Filer told Judge Robert Crigler that McElroy agreed to pay restitution of $80,500. Some $2,000 paid on Wednesday covered court costs. Within 30 days, McElroy is to pay $38,000. Thereafter, at least $850 is to be paid monthly.
McElroy's successor, Betty Ann Ogilvie, said she learned from prosecutors that a farm owned by one of McElroy's relatives was posted as collateral so the convicted thief could pay restitution.
District Attorney Chuck Crawford substantiated the day care center directors' statement regarding restitution, probation and the 29 days McElroy spent in the county jail since her arrest.
"The state was unable to obtain meaningful restitution in this case and also get the jail sentence that the defendant deserved," Crawford said. "We opted to accept restitution and a lengthy period of probation. This resolution works to the benefit of the children served by Wee Care while giving the defendant a chance to prove herself on probation."
Ironically, theft by embezzlement wasn't what led to the board's discovery of the crime.
"It got to the point where she wouldn't show up for work and parents were complaining," said Ogilvie, new director running Wee Care Day Care Inc. at 599 Fox Lane. "We decided to fire her and then she had to be called in to be fired.
"Then we started looking for the books and couldn't find any," Ogilvie said.
Filer said that was last fall.
In open court Wednesday, McElroy said that she's agreed to serve 12 years on probation and pay restitution.
Much of the money she took was cash from parents paying for day care services, Filer said. The money was spent on furnishings and appliances at McElroy's home.
When parents paid by check, they were deposited, Filer said. A ledger book couldn't be reconciled and a receipt book wasn't found. As a result, law enforcement officers were called in.
Investigation revealed that a $24,000 certificate of deposit wasn't renewed as required and the money was left in the day care center's account, Filer said.
McElroy was indicted on 11 counts, Judge Crigler noted from the bench. One of the felonies carries a term of up to 30 years, depending on a defendant's prior record.
Attendance at the day care center dropped to "about 50-60" just before McElroy was fired, day care center board member Linda Wright said. It's at about 106 now. The center is licensed for 99, but several of the 106 have part-time service.