A Newport woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail Thursday for her role in stealing thousands of dollars from disabled residents.
Bonnie S. Reaume, 70, of 4527 London Dr. was sentenced to jail and ordered to repay more than $40,000 in restitution.
She and her former supervisor were accused of stealing from Mon- Arc of Monroe, an agency that assists mentally and physically disabled people with their finances.
Marge Burnett, president of Mon- Arc’s board of directors, said the crime targeted people with disabilities and that makes it more difficult to understand.
“ She took advantage of extremely vulnerable people,” Ms. Burnett said. “It’s about more than money.”
Mrs. Reaume was an office manager at Mon- Arc and the executive director was Kelly L. Tyler, 54, of Saline. Both women were charged with embezzlement of vulnerable adults.
Mrs. Reaume pleaded no contest to the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Ms. Tyler is scheduled to go to trial in October.
Dennis Ulrich, Mrs. Reaume’s attorney, said his client never admitted to stealing money from the disabled or from Mon-Arc. Although she entered a no contest plea, which is treated as a guilty plea, Mr. Ulrich said Mrs. Reaume wanted to avoid a trial.
“ She maintained she didn’t steal anything,” Mr. Ulrich said. “ She’s a good person with a good heart. She just got caught up with something.”
At her sentencing, Monroe County Circuit Judge Michael A. Weipert allowed Mrs. Reaume the opportunity to withdraw her plea, but she didn’t so he sentenced her to 270 days in jail, 30 days immediately.
Mrs. Reaume is a former member of the Jefferson Schools Board of Education. She served 17 years on the board, including several years as president.
Mon- Arc serves about 110 clients in the area and assists the disabled with their day- today finances. Ms. Burnett said 19 clients, or consumers as the agency refers to them, were victimized by the theft. One of those victims was a 49-year-old man whose body was found last May in a cornfield off Stewart Rd. west of N. Monroe St.
That man, who had the mentality of an 8- year- old boy due to a lifelong disability, had been missing for five months. Police said at the time that he most likely became disoriented and died of exposure while walking from the hospital. But a day before his body was found, his bank account was cleaned out; he was the victim of theft, Ms. Burnett said.
“ That’s despicable,” she said.
The thefts occurred over an 18- month period. The Monroe police and the Social Security Administration investigated and charges were filed. Mrs. Reaume and Ms. Tyler were eventually fired.
Ms. Burnett said the public can have confidence in the agency. She said steps have been taken to assure that such a crime is not repeated in the future. Employee hiring will be conducted by the board and the executive director will no longer have as much responsibility as in the past.
“ We have many checks and balances in place that will make it very difficult for something like this to happen again,” Ms. Burnett said. “ The community can be assured that every employee of Mon- Arc is trustworthy. We are moving forward.”
In addition to her jail time, Mrs. Reaume was sentenced to five years of probation and will have to make restitution payments of $ 675 a month. She is no longer allowed to work or volunteer with special- needs people and cannot have control over another person’s money.