LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -
A Henderson woman is in jail after embezzling more than $200,000 from the Longview ISD Education Foundation during a four-year period.
Under terms of a plea deal reached in March, Patricia Benton Hesler, 61, is serving one year in state jail after pleading guilty to forgery and theft. She began serving her sentence on April 1.
Judge Alfonso Charles also ordered Hesler to pay $70,373.35 in restitution to the Longview ISD foundation, about $130,000 less than the amount Hesler pled guilty to stealing, according to court documents. All parties reportedly agreed to that amount.
The Longview ISD Education Foundation is a non-profit organization created in 1994 to fund grants for teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses within that district. In 2012, the foundation reported to the IRS a total revenue of $60,540, with $76,060 paid out in grants.
In a statement released this morning by the Gregg County District Attorneys Office, Stacey Brownlee said, “over $250,000 was recovered and repaid to the LISD Foundation prior to the plea, an additional $10,000 was paid the day of the plea, with the remainder (the only amount reported in KLTV’s story) to be repaid as a condition of probation once she (Patricia Hesler) is released from prison.”
The theft began in Aug. 28, 2008 and continued for more than four years, according to the indictment. Records also show Hesler was employed as an administrative assistant at the accounting firm of Frank Taggart & Co. in Longview at that time. That firm handles financial matters for the foundation, according to income tax filings.
The forgery indictment states that Hesler made it appear as if her supervisor at the accounting firm, Diane Gibson, wrote at least one check on the account of the Longview ISD Education Foundation. Gibson signed the foundation’s tax returns as the preparer.
The indictment for theft states more than $200,000 was unlawfully acquired from K. Ray, the executive director of the Longview ISD Education Foundation.
Hesler was arrested in April 2013 by deputies with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, according to arrest reports.
In an employment biography posted online, Hesler said she “is passionate about charitable organizations such as Longview Independent School District and GoodWill Industries.”
Hesler was also sentenced to 10 years probation and 480 hours of community service.