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WJBD - Local News - Former Tri Chi Co-Sponsor Pleads Guilty to Theft Of Money From Sorority

Former Tri Chi Co-Sponsor Pleads Guilty to Theft Of Money From Sorority

By Bruce Kropp

A 37-year-old Centralia woman who was the co-sponsor to the 2013 Tri Chi Club in Centralia has pleaded guilty in Marion County Court to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft for taking money raised by members of the high school sorority. 

Melissa Scheetz of South Cherry was ordered to immediately repay $20,529 that had been taken from the group's bank account from 2010 to August of this year. She was also ordered to serve two years probation, pay court costs, undergo drug and alcohol evaluation, treatment and testing, complete 60 hours of public service work and 30 days of electronic home monitoring. Scheetz will also have to write a letter of apology to the victims.

State's Attorney Matt Wilzbach says he agreed to reduce the charge after talking to several of the Tri Chi members and their parents. He reports Scheetz family had only agreed to make the restitution in full on her behalf immediately if the charge was reduced from felony to misdemeanor theft. Wilzbach says the general feeling of the sorority were to get a conviction and the money back immediately so they could continue to help charities and take a trip following the completion of their senior year. Without members of the Scheetz family stepping forward, Wilzbach says it is likely restitution would have been ordered at around $50 a month. That would mean the sorority members having to wait until their grandchildren were in high school to get the money back.

Wilzbach says because Scheetz has no prior convictions, she would not have faced prison time on a felony conviction and the sentence would have been similar to what she received on the misdemeanor charge. As part of the plea, Scheetz admitting taking under $500 from the Tri Chi fund instead of over $10,000 as originally charged. 

Centralia Police say Scheetz had started taking small amounts of money that she later repaid. The amounts stolen had grown substantially over the two year period until the account bounced a check that led to the discovery of the theft. Scheetz indicated she had been using the stolen money for household expenses.

Judge Marc Kelly accepted the plea agreement on Tuesday.

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