July 13, 2013

Arundel woman sentenced for stealing from children's clinic

Mari Jo Allen pleads guilty and will have to serve 20 months of a four-year prison sentence and pay restitution of $76,000.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

An Arundel woman is headed to prison for stealing from the children's health clinic she ran while paying herself a large salary. The clinic was forced to close.

Mari Jo Allen, 42, pleaded guilty in York County Superior Court on Friday as part of an agreement with prosecutors that will require her to serve 20 months of a four-year prison sentence, with three years probation, and pay restitution of $76,000. Her guilty plea covered charges of theft of unemployment benefits, tax evasion and forgery.

Allen was the executive director of Pediatric Evaluations for Developmental Solutions, or PEDS, a nonprofit clinic in Kennebunk that provided mental health and medical services to children. The clinic was forced to close in 2010 because of financial troubles, said Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein, who prosecuted the case.

Allen was the executive director in 2008 and 2009 and paid herself a salary of about $200,000 over the two years.

Meanwhile, clinicians and other employees of the clinic went unpaid, as did vendors the clinic owed money, health insurance premiums and withholding taxes, Bernstein said.

"This was a sophisticated, long-term series of thefts affecting a number of people, particularly the PEDS clinic, the population it served along with the clinicians and the doctors who provided the service," said Bernstein.

"Ms. Allen's compensation never skipped a beat, all the while the clinic, unbeknownst to the board of directors, was hemorrhaging debt and credit," read the sentencing memorandum Bernstein submitted in the case.

The clinic's board of directors discovered irregularities in the bookkeeping and an investigation led to a 23-count indictment in 2011.

The day she was fired in December 2009, Allen wrote herself two checks for just under $5,000 so she wouldn't need board approval and doctored the books to show they owed her another $66,000, the memorandum said.

Allen also was charged with failing to pay income taxes and giving herself excessive refunds. Allen also was accused of stealing unemployment benefits, because she was collecting them while working elsewhere, and stealing rent refunds and property tax assistance from the state based on fraudulent tax returns.

A plea agreement reached in March would have had Allen serve a maximum of 15 months, and less if she paid half her restitution. However, while she was under indictment, she was accused of stealing from her new employer, Rose Law LLC.

Allen was accused of using the company credit card, intended for office supplies, while she vacationed in North Conway and at the clothing store Talbot's. She also was accused of issuing herself salary she wasn't entitled to.

"I think it's the end of a sorry chapter in her life, a really unfortunate series of choices, similar to choices she's made apparently repeatedly throughout her life," said Wendy Starkey, an attorney at Rose Law. "It seems to me she has tremendous talent and she's always chosen to use it in the wrong way."

The new charges were incorporated into Friday's plea deal, adding to Allen's sentence.

 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

 

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