Lee pleads guilty in scholarship theft

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2007

Former Chamber of Commerce Director Carol Lee pleaded guilty to theft of property, 2nd degree on Friday in Butler County Circuit Court.

Lee, indicted by the grand jury in February on allegations she stole $7,535.82 in scholarship funds as acting Chamber Director, was given a suspended sentence of 32 months incarceration by Circuit Judge Edward McFerrin and placed on two years of supervised probation. She was also fined $500 and must pay all court costs. Lee has paid back the stolen funds to both the Chamber of Commerce and the Butler County Achiever's Award scholarship fund.

Lee was initially charged with both theft of property, 1st degree and theft of property, 2nd degree, felonies which carried anywhere from one year to 10 years imprisonment.

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District Attorney John Andrews said he gave consideration to Lee being a first time offender when accepting the plea deal brokered through her attorney McGowin Williamson.

&#8220I treated her no differently then any other person who would have committed this crime,” he said. &#8220She was a good chamber director. She just made a mistake. I wasn't going to ask for anything severe.”

When asked by McFerrin if she had anything to say following the sentencing, Lee replied &#8220no sir.”

Lee, 44, was accompanied to court by her husband, Steve.

Lee resigned her position from the Chamber of Commerce in November 2006 and a criminal investigation was launched by Andrews' office in December of that year. The embezzlement of funds occurred between September 2004 and August 2006, according to court reports.

She had been an employee of the Chamber since 1993.

The Chamber Board of Directors hired Francine Wasden this week to replace Lee.