Turner sentenced in embezzlement case - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Turner sentenced in embezzlement case

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CALEDONIA, MN (WXOW)—An Onalaska woman is going to jail for embezzling money from the La Crescent-Hokah School District to feed a gambling addiction.

Mary Chris Turner told police she took the school's credit card to get cash from an ATM to gamble.

She was the accounts payable clerk for the district.

From 2008 to 2012, turner stole $416,000 from the district.  But, the district said the full amount lost is closer to $540,000, if you consider their extra costs like attorney fees.

Before sentencing, Sam Jandt, La Crescent-Hokah School Board Chair, told the court, Turner's crime affected the district more than just financially.  It damaged the trust tax payers have in the district.

Jandt said students are the real victims because they had fewer resources available for their education.

Turner's attorney said this could have been avoided, or she could have been caught sooner, if the district had adequate safe guards in place.

But the district said the accounting standards they have in place are approved by the state; Turner just knew how to get around them.

Turner apologized to the district and said she is getting help for her gambling addiction.

But, the judge sentenced her to the maximum one year in jail and she must pay $292, 671 in restitution to the district.

"I do think it was very fair," Jamie Hammell Houston County District Attorney said. "She does have some assets that we are able to have paid over to the district. And I do feel that the one year time in jail is very fair for her. She doesn't have a criminal history at all."

Her lawyer said paying the restitution wipes out her entire pension and life savings.

Turner was sentenced to twenty years of probation, but, if she pays back her restitution in five years, her probation will be reduced to five years.

Turner's lawyer said she has been diagnosed as a pathological gambler and is currently being treated for her addiction.

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