Museum Security Network

Hollis woman sentenced for $1.3m theft

Hollis woman sentenced for $1.3m theft

New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent

HOLLIS – A local woman was sentenced to three to five years in prison in Massachusetts on Monday after pleading guilty to charges she embezzled more than $1.3 million from her former employer, a museum in Harvard, Mass.

Peggy Kempton, 54, pleaded guilty last month to 14 counts of larceny, three counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and one count of false entries in corporate books. She was sentenced Monday in Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts and given the sentence recommended by prosecutors.

As deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the Fruitlands Museum from January 2002 to February 2008, Kempton stole at least $1.3 million by taking out 14 credit cards in the museum’s name and then using museum funds to pay them off, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. One card was taken out in a co-worker’s name without their knowledge.

The cards were used to fund lavish lifestyles for her three children.

Kempton also got cash advances on three more credit cards she had taken out in the names of still more coworkers, using the money to pay off her own personal credit cards, the AG’s office said.

To cover up her crimes, Kempton simply cooked the books, the AG’s office said, making personal expenses appear to be business ones.

“This defendant abused her position of trust to defraud her employers and misuse charitable funds for her own personal gain,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “With today’s sentence she has been held accountable for her actions and has been ordered to pay full restitution back to the charity.”

According to Nashoba Publishing, a chain of weekly newspapers in Massachusetts, prosecutors noted some of her purchases during the sentencing, including:

• $88,600 from one Middleton antique store for various antiquities
• $52,984 in airline tickets
• $31,658 in clothing from Neiman Marcus
• $13,987 in purchases at Nordstrom department store
• in excess of $7,000 in jewelry purchased at Tiffany’s
• $47,592 in college tuition and private preparatory school education for her children.

Jeffrey Denner, Kempton’s attorney, said yesterday that his client descended into an emotional “abyss” as she allegedly suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband. He said the abuse led her to become unbalanced and to try to create a grandiose life for her three kids.

“She lost perspective and tried to give them a life that would let them forget about the life they were living,” he said.

Denner said Kempton never reported the alleged abuse to authorities because she didn’t want to break up her family. A previous husband had walked out on her, and she feared something similar happening again.

“She was terrified of being alone again,” he said.

Kempton is sorry for what she did, Denner said.

“She’s sorry about a lot of things, certainly part of that is what she did to Fruitlands,” he said.

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