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$222,000 embezzlement brings 2-year prison term



Published: Wed, July 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Moncrief pleaded guilty to the charge in May.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A city woman is going to prison for two years for violating her position of trust with a church-based organization.

At an emotional hearing Tuesday, Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court sentenced Ann Moncrief, 55, of West Heights, to the prison term on a theft charge, a felony that carries a maximum five-year penalty.

One of Moncrief's relatives broke down in tears after hearing the sentence given, and she had to be helped from the courtroom by friends and other Moncrief supporters.

Moncrief, who worked more than 20 years for Neighborhood Ministries, pleaded guilty May 25. Sentencing was delayed pending a presentence report by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.

Law enforcement officials said she embezzled more than $222,000 from the organization over a seven-year period. She was arrested last year.

The victim

Neighborhood Ministries is a mission of the American Baptist Churches begun in 1913. It focuses on meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of children in Rockford Village in Youngstown and Kirwan Homes in Campbell, which have a combined total of about 300 residents.

The organization gets its support through individual and church contributions, fund raising and grants, and is a United Way agency.

Robert Andrews, an assistant county prosecutor, had recommended to Judge Sweeney that Moncrief be placed on probation with the understanding she would sign over her pension and the cash value of a life insurance policy to the state to make some form of restitution to Neighborhood Ministries.

Before sentencing, a representative from the Christian-based group told the court that Moncrief's actions had hindered the organization's ability to provide field trips for children and buy needed supplies.

The representative said, however, that the Neighborhood Ministries board did not request Moncrief be placed in prison.

Remorseful client

Moncrief's lawyer, Samuel G. Amendolara, said his client was extremely remorseful and sorry for what happened. She was so distressed she even thought about taking her life, he added.

Amendolara said Moncrief was a good candidate for probation because it was highly unlikely she would ever again commit a similar crime. She has no prior criminal record.

He said Moncrief, while using some of the money personally, did give funds to help poor people pay electric bills or buy food.

"Ann knows she must answer to a higher power for what she's done," Amendolara said.

A tearful Moncrief said she was wrong for using Neighborhood Ministries money without the group's authority.

"I've hurt those closest to me. I will work to repay the ministry the best way I can," she told the judge. "This won't happen again."

Not taken lightly

A Moncrief supporter also told the judge her friend "loves the Lord and is concerned about people" and asked Judge Sweeney to show mercy.

Judge Sweeney told Moncrief this was "one of the worst forms of theft," adding that she didn't take lightly the matter of Moncrief taking money contributed by churches to help the poor.

She said Moncrief's pension and her life insurance wouldn't come close to reimbursing Neighborhood Ministries.

"You won't be able to repay unless you hit the lottery," the judge said.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sweeney ordered that Moncrief forfeit her pension and life insurance policy, and that after her release she would continue to pay on the rest of the $222,400 restitution.




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