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Former Conn. fire department treasurer sentenced for embezzling $160,000

The Associated Press

MONROE, Conn.  — A fire department's former treasurer received a suspended prison sentence Friday for embezzling more than $160,000 to pay her credit cards and utility bills.

Karen Wickson, 39, was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and serve three years of probation, and will go to prison for five years if she does not complete those terms.

Wickson, who pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree larceny, had been treasurer of the Stepney Volunteer Fire Department in Monroe since 1996.

"I'm sorry for everything I did, and I look forward to the future when I can turn everything around," Wickson said during her sentencing Friday before Superior Court Judge Richard Comerford Jr.

Wickson was accused of embezzling from the department's bank account to pay personal credit card and utility bills dating back to 2002. The thefts were discovered in March 2005 when a utility company sent a shut-off notice to the department for nonpayment.

Wickson had never been in legal trouble before and is now seeing a therapist, said her attorney, Frederick Ury.

Her husband, Robert Wickson, former financial officer of the Stepney Volunteer Fire Department, had also been charged with larceny in connection with the embezzlement. Following his wife's sentencing Friday, the judge granted him accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation for first-time nonviolent offenders.

Under that program, Robert Wickson did not admit guilt to first-degree larceny, but was put on two years of probation. If he commits no other crime during that probation, the charge against him will be dismissed.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Robert Brennan said he had intended to recommend a one-year prison term for Karen Wickson, but acknowledged that Wickson paid $166,000 in restitution to the department.

Nearly a dozen members of the Stepney Volunteer Fire Department attended Friday's court proceedings.

John Fracassini, who represents the department, said they consider Karen Wickson's actions to be a serious violation of trust, but they stopped short of demanding prison time. The firefighters are not satisfied with the sentence, but felt it was fair under the circumstances, he said.

The judge said that while Wickson deserves credit for the years in which she served the department, many people in society have lost sight of trust and honor.

"These are firefighters and honor and trust is what they are about," Comerford said. "When our necks are on the line, it's people like them we look to for help."

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