AP FILE PHOTO
A photo provided by the Vermont secretary of state shows Karen Brisson. Brisson, former Weybridge town clerk and treasurer, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for embezzling several hundred thousand dollars from the town.
RUTLAND — With a shaking voice and trying to hold back tears, Karen Brisson addressed a federal judge Thursday before she was sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing at least $400,000 from the town of Weybridge.
The former town clerk and town treasurer told the court she regretted her actions and how she disappointed her family, friends and the taxpayers in the small Addison County community.
“I have and am again apologizing to my community,” the 50-year-old said. “... I don’t feel like I can fix the trust I broke and the people I betrayed, but I am committed to trying.”
At the hearing in U.S. District Court in Rutland, Judge Christina Reiss also ordered Brisson to pay $431,812 in restitution.
Weybridge is owed $19,019 for legal and investigative fees, while the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which insured the town, is owed $412,793.
Brisson is to report to an out-of-state federal prison Sept. 3, though the location will be determined within the next several weeks. The judge asked for the lowest security facility available.
Once Brisson completes her sentence, she will serve three years of supervised release.
Brisson was town clerk and treasurer for 27 years until November, when she admitted to the embezzlement and resigned. She had estimated that she stole between $100,000 and $150,000 between 2006 and 2012.
The real amount, though, was much higher. A forensic audit of town records found Brisson embezzled $470,480 during the six-year period.
According to court records, she stole from the town primarily by issuing checks to herself without authorization and putting them into a personal account.
“She started slow and when she gained full stride, she could not stop,” her attorney Devin McLaughlin said in court.
The last check she issued to herself was in September, right in the middle of town officials’ discussing the possibility of an audit.
Brisson pleaded guilty to the embezzlement count in March. The prosecution asked for a two-year sentence while the defense requested a one-year term.
Attending the court hearing Thursday were family members and two Weybridge Select Board members, who did not speak, though they provided the court with a victim impact statement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples said the Select Board was willing to stand by the letter expressing the impact to the community.
In that statement, the Select Board said the public reaction to Brisson’s admission was shock but that once the forensic audit uncovered the large figure stolen the sentiments shifted to anger and betrayal.
“While people still care about Karen and are concerned for her health and welfare, they are now angry at the amount of money she stole and at the duration of the crime,” the impact statement reads.
Brisson plans to sell her Weybridge house to help pay the restitution.
Reiss said this embezzlement case was one of the largest and longest cases that have plagued Vermont in recent years.
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