Former CCSO employee sentenced to three months in prison for $31K theft

A federal judge sentenced Michele Levesey Woods, also known as Michele Levesey Saubak, to three months in prison on a count of theft from a program receiving federal funds.

Woods plead guilty in January to taking $31,614.37 in cash over a period of about two years while she was employed as an accountant at the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.

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Wood’s attorney argued during the May 2 sentencing hearing, that she had accepted responsibility for her actions, already paid $5,000 toward restitution and was now employed and in treatment for her gambling addiction.

Woods’ public defender, David Ness, asked the court to consider probation as a sentence instead of jail time so she could continue to work and pay restitution.

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“She’s never been in trouble,” Ness said. “She’s deeply ashamed of what she’s done. I really don’t believe that the court has to worry about her committing other crimes.”

During the hearing, Woods said “I never meant to hurt anybody or to steal, I’m not that kind of person.”

Ryan Weldon, the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, said the government recognized Wood’s efforts to turn her life around, but that she had violated the public trust.

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“This is over two years, incremental, intentional conduct,” Weldon said. “It was her abusing the system.”

Weldon said since it was cash, the theft was difficult to track, but the FBI investigators discovered cash deposits to her bank account that matched missing funds from the accounts at CCSO.

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Judge Brian Morris commended Woods for her efforts to make amends and go through treatment, but said, “you were in a position of public trust. You abused that trust and that case a shadow,” over others in government and positions of public trust.

He said he had to consider a sentence that addressed the abuse of public trust and that also served as a deterrent to others in positions of public trust that might consider doing something similar.

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Weldon said the court could give Woods a break because of her acceptance of responsibility, but to give her probation for the theft might serve as a promoter of misconduct to others in similar positions.

Morris sentenced Woods to three months in prison, at a facility selected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons; two years of supervision after her release; 100 hours of community service; and to pay $31,614. 37 in restitution, among other conditions.

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Morris said that $500 of the restitution would be paid to CCSO and the remainder to the Montana Association of Counties Property and Casualty Trust.

Woods has 14 days to file an appeal in federal court.