Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 23, 2017

Schafer pleads guilty to Little League theft

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 02, 2017
Source: submitted Shaefer

A Fairfield woman has pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree theft in cases involving Fairfield Little League.

Catherine Schafer, 52, former president of Fairfield Little League, accepted the plea agreement Monday in the Jefferson County Courthouse. Schafer was charged with theft and ongoing criminal mischief against both Fairfield Little League and against Ann Gary, the club’s treasurer. The thefts allegedly took place from March 21 to Sept. 30 in 2014.

First degree theft is a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of at least $1,000 but no more than $10,000. Jefferson County Attorney Tim Dille, who prosecuted the case involving Gary, said he will not ask the judge to sentence Schafer to prison. Schafer has agreed to pay restitution of just over $20,000 to Gary.

Schafer faced a separate charge of theft against Fairfield Little League, but Dille did not prosecute that case. Assistant County Attorney Pat McAvan is active in Fairfield Little League, creating a conflict of interest. The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office requested the Washington County Attorney’s Office to prosecute the case instead.

Washington County Attorney John Gish said today that he will not seek prison time for Schafer, either. Schafer has agreed to pay approximately $35,000 in restitution to Fairfield Little League. Dille and Gish said it was more important that Schafer be allowed to work so she has the ability to pay the $55,000 in restitution she owes.

Dille said Schafer is expected to ask the sentencing judge for a deferred judgment. A deferred judgment is one where a guilty plea does not count as a conviction and, assuming the defendant complies with their probation, the felony can be expunged from their record. Dille said  the state will ask the sentencing judge to put Schafer on probation but not to give her a deferred judgment.

By pleading down to first degree theft in both cases, Schafer avoided a trial for ongoing criminal mischief, a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Dille said the prosecutors will dismiss that charge at the time of her sentencing June 26.

Dille said Schafer was charged with not only taking money from both Gary and Fairfield Little League but also of making inappropriate purchases and then turning the bills over to the Little League for reimbursement.

In March, Gary told The Ledger she had been involved with Fairfield Little League since the 1980s when her children were young. She later became the organization’s president, and was the concession stand manager for about 10 years beginning in 2004. During her time as concession stand manager, she also became the treasurer.

Gary said she lent her personal credit card to Schafer so she could use it to purchase Little League equipment. Gary said she saw on her bank statements that Schafer had used the card for personal expenses, such as paying for a trip to Seattle. Gary said Schafer repeatedly promised to pay off the card but never did. Gary said she was paying about $130-$140 in interest every month on the card. Finally, Gary canceled the card, but not before a little more than $20,000 in charges had accrued.

Laurie Stokes-Woods is a friend of Gary’s since Gary has a daughter close to her in age. When Stokes-Woods found out that Gary was paying off the credit card charges with her own retirement savings, she felt something had to be done. Stokes-Woods set up a gofundme account online to solicit donations for Gary.

After a few weeks, the account had received more than $1,000 in donations.

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