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Demers sentenced to halfway house for embezzlement

Posted: Monday, November 06, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Embezzler Jim Demers has been sentenced to serve six months in a halfway house and pay up to $24,000 in restitution.

Demers, 49, pleaded no contest this summer to second-degree theft and falsifying business records. He was accused of stealing at least $12,000 from the nonprofit Alaska Folk Festival during the five years he served as its treasurer.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins sentenced Demers to serve two years in prison Friday with 18 months suspended and five years probation on the theft charge.

She recommended that he serve that time in a halfway house, and ordered him to report to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center over the weekend for classification.

Collins also ordered that Demers apply his Alaska Permanent Fund dividends toward restitution, and that he perform 100 hours of community work. She also sentenced him to pay some of the costs of his incarceration, or up to $2,500.

Because of what Collins termed ''the length and seriousness of his crimes,'' she did not heed pleas for leniency by Demers' defense attorney, James E. Curtain.

''While this offense does not involve physical violence, it does involve a position of trust,'' Collins said. ''This is not an impulsive act occurring once or over a short period of a day or two, but occurring over a period of years with very significant efforts made to disguise those thefts.''

Collins handed down an identical sentence running concurrently for the charge of falsifying business records.

This was counter to the recommendation by probation officer MaShelle Atherton of two consecutive sentences of two years.

Atherton requested Demers participate in a financial counseling program, and Collins added that to the sentence.

Demers was treasurer of the folk festival from 1994 to 1999. A year ago, festival board members noticed ledger entries did not match bank records. They collected evidence and called police in December.

''People have been upset (about the embezzlement),'' said Riley Woodford, Alaska Folk Festival president. ''It reflects poorly on any organization to have a board member steal from the membership ... and it does not make people more generous to know that in the past their donations were stolen.''

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