CLEARFIELD — A Grampian couple who stole funds from Grampian-Penn-Bloom Vol. Fire Co. took a “compromise” plea agreement to avoid jail time Tuesday at sentencing court.
Scott McCracken, 41, and his wife, Jennifer McCracken, 38, both accepted plea deals where they each pleaded guilty to 10 counts of misdemeanor theft by unlawful taking and were sentenced to serve 10 years of probation and pay $3,361, ($6,722 total) in restitution to the fire company.
Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman said he gave each a lengthy term of probation to give the McCrackens incentive to pay off the restitution to the fire company as soon as possible. If the couple repays the fire company within a “reasonable” amount of time he would consider reducing the length of their probation.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. called it a “compromise” plea agreement. He said the case has been on the docket for so long because they had to wait for a forensic audit to be completed on the fire company’s financial records. He said the audit has been completed, but results were inconclusive because the fire company’s accounting practices were “less than ideal.”
The McCrackens’ attorney, Chris Pentz of Clearfield, agreed – saying some of the audit was favorable to the commonwealth, some of it was in favor of the defense, and some was in between.
Pentz said they were willing to take a plea because the McCrackens could face a substantial risk if it went to trial, and the plea deal was a meeting in the middle. Shaw said they were willing to accept the deal to make sure the fire company is paid back in full.
Grampian-Penn-Bloom Trustee Mickey Hoover said the fire company is in agreement with the plea deal.
“I think it is the best for everybody,” Hoover said.
Hoover said the incident caused a lot of consternation and doubt over the fire company in the community. But, he said the fire company has implemented new accounting procedures to prevent something like this from happening again.
Shaw said the community shouldn’t hold this against the fire company moving forward because it has implemented the necessary steps to improve its record keeping and financial accounting.
Ammerman said usually in employee or insider theft cases, he demands that the defendant serve at least some jail time in any plea agreement and the only question is how much time and whether the sentence would be served in the county jail or state prison. But he said he understands the circumstances the District Attorney’s Office is in and would accept the plea. Ammerman also acknowledged that the DA’s office and the state police have spent many hours working on the case.
Pentz apologized on behalf of the McCrackens to the fire company for all the damage they have caused.
In addition to probation, Ammerman fined Scott and Jennifer McCracken $100 each for the first count and $50 each for counts 2-10. He also ordered them to not enter onto the property of the Grampian Penn Bloom Vol. Fire Co. and they can never serve with a volunteer organization again.
Jennifer McCracken also pleaded guilty to bad checks and was fined $100 and was ordered to pay restitution of $156.90 to J.G. Food Warehouse in Clearfield.