Front Page / Mar. 22, 2006 11:00pm EST

Bookkeeper Must
Pay $110,000
To Avoid Prison
Bookkeeper Must Pay $110,000 To Avoid Prison

Bookkeeper Must Pay $110,000 To Avoid Prison

The former bookkeeper of Welch’s True Value Hardware stores in Royalton and Woodstock will repay $110,000 in funds allegedly embezzled from the businesses by the terms of plea agreement recently reached in Windsor District Court.

The deferred sentence allows Darline M. Rhoades, 51, of Tunbridge, to avoid any prison time if she successfully completes the restitution order, and other conditions of the plea bargain.

As part of the agreement, Rhoades pleaded no contest to one felony charge of grand larceny and one misdemeanor charge of petty larceny in court two weeks ago. In pleading no contest, the accused neither admits guilt nor offers any defense.

Rhoades was initially charged, last May, with four felony grand larceny charges, each carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

Prosecutors said that the four charges, for writing store checks totaling $11,600 to pay personal credit card debt, were selected as being representative of the total alleged embezzlement. According to court records, Rhoades converted more than $166,000 in store funds to her personal use over four years.

State police investigator Det. Sgt. John Hagen wrote in his affidavit that about $107,000 in store checks were written to credit card companies to which Rhoades owned money, and another $59,000 in checks was made out to cash.

During the court hearing, Windsor County States Atty. Robert Sand called the plea bargain "an extraordinary opportunity" for Rhoades to avoid a significant prison sentence.

Charles Welch, owner of the hardware and variety stores, offered no comment when presiding district court Judge. Theresa S. DiMauro asked for his reaction to the complex plea agreement and restitution plan.

Rhoades was ordered to pay Welch’s at a rate of $700 per month.

In addition to repaying $110,000 to Welch’s, Rhoades must also pay $10,000 to Welch’s lawyer, Tavian Mayer, according to the agreement.

The agreement reserves Rhoades’ right to challenge her obligation to pay the $56,000 that is the difference between what she was ordered to pay, and the total that police claim was embezzled. Her lawyer, Richard Burstein, indicated to Judge DiMauro that he would attempt to negotiate that issue with Atty. Mayer.

Judge DiMauro deferred sentencing on the felony grand larceny charge for five years, during which time Rhoades will remain on probation.

Rhoades was sentenced to six to 12 months on the misdemeanor petty larceny charge, with all of that except for 30 days suspended. It was agreed that Rhoades would serve that time not in prison, but on a work crew; that she would tour a prison; and that she would undergo mental health counseling.

The two remaining grand larceny charges filed against Rhoades were dropped.

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