AUGUSTA — The former treasurer of the Litchfield Fair, who stole more than $150,000 in fair funds — draining its bank accounts just as the fair was preparing for its 2018 run — pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge Wednesday.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison, with all but 18 months of that suspended, meaning he’s expected to be incarcerated for 18 months and would only be required to serve the full eight-year sentence if he doesn’t meet the conditions of his three-year probation.

His probation requirements include that he make restitution to pay back the $129,000 he owes the fair. Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, expressing doubts Beaudette will be able to pay back that full amount, said he won’t be put back into prison if he doesn’t pay back the full amount, as long as he’s making a good faith effort to make payments, to be determined by his probation officer.

Attorney Kevin Sullivan, who worked at no charge to help the Litchfield Farmers’ Club, which puts on the annual fair, said fair organizers would have liked to see a longer sentence for Beaudette but they are satisfied with the results of the case. Two members of the club were in the courtroom for Beaudette’s plea, but declined to speak to the court, other than through Sullivan.

“They certainly want the court to know that what occurred basically left them with no money, just before the start of the 2018 fair,” Sullivan said. “And it really shook up everything, shook up their trust.”

The surrounding community raised enough funds, after learning of the theft, to continue to put on the annual fair, and had record-breaking attendance in 2018, but Sullivan said that doesn’t change the impact of what Beaudette did or his violation of trust.

Prosecutor Tracy McCarthy, assistant district attorney, said Beaudette, who as treasurer of the fair controlled all its bank accounts, admitted to taking more than $150,000 from the fair, some of which he has since paid back.

She said Beaudette said he took the money to gamble, and planned to pay it back, but his gambling got out of control.

Beaudette’s attorney Walter McKee said after the plea he is confident Beaudette will pay the entire amount owed back.

“He was very remorseful for what he did and very much wants to make things right,” McKee said, “and part of that will be his commitment on release to paying back every penny.”

The theft charge against Beaudette was a Class B felony, due to the amount of money involved, and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Mullen said Beaudette violated the trust and confidence of all the people involved with the fair. He said in sentencing he tried to balance the need for the sentence to serve as a deterrent and reflect the seriousness of the crime with the recognition that, if Beaudette were to be imprisoned for years and years, it would make it less likely he’d be able to make restitution.

The thefts took place between December 2015 and August 2018. They were discovered after suspicions were raised about checks Beaudette had written, according to McCarthy. Members of the club confronted Beaudette, who admitted he had taken thousands of dollars for his gambling habit.

Sullivan said Beaudette, after admitting what he did, worked with him to go over every single transaction for the last two or three years to identify how much money was involved. Sullivan and Mullen said they gave him credit for that, because if he had not done so, it would have made it difficult to determine how much had been taken.

“I can remember reading about this and thinking, ‘what a shame,'” Mullen said of first learning the fair’s funds had been stolen. “I’m glad to hear the community came together and saved the fair, but that doesn’t diminish the effect of your actions.”

Beaudette also pleaded guilty to violating conditions of release twice this year, and operating after suspension, for driving with a suspended license. The start of his imprisonment will be delayed until Nov. 15.

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