Woman convicted of stealing from Arts Council of Southeast Missouri slow in making restitution

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Cape Girardeau woman convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from a not-for-profit agency has been sporadic in her restitution payments and may face prison time.

Valaree Rutherford is in danger of having her probation revoked because she has not been diligent with her restitution payments. She was due in court for a show-cause hearing Sept. 12, but the hearing was postponed until Dec. 12.

Rutherford pleaded guilty to felony forgery charges in July 2010 to stealing more than $13,000 from the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri by using a company credit card. Rutherford made nearly 40 unauthorized charges to the arts council's Staples credit card, which she used to buy miscellaneous gift cards and a GPS unit.

The state arts council helps fund the local organization each year, providing $21,118 of its overall projected $150,000 budget for 2012. The rest of the money comes from membership fees, donations, fundraising and grants.

Rutherford was employed by the organization from July 2006 to December 2009 as an administrative assistant.

Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Lewis sentenced her to four years in prison but suspended execution of the sentence and ordered Rutherford to complete probation.

As part of the probation, Lewis ordered Rutherford to pay restitution of $16,223. He said she must have the total amount paid in full by Feb. 9, 2015.

To date, Rutherford has paid $749, according to court documents. The payments have not been on a monthly basis and ranged from $20 to $100, and the largest payment was more than $500, according to court documents.

On April 21, the state scheduled a show-cause hearing for Rutherford to explain why her probation should not be revoked for failure to pay restitution as ordered. At the time, she had not paid restitution since Oct. 21, 2010, and owed $15,644.70, according to court documents.

Since April, Rutherford has taken a part-time job at Dollar Tree and has paid $578.30 toward restitution. In July, Lewis recommended Rutherford get a second job.

Rutherford declined to comment on her restitution payment.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

32 N. Main St. Cape Girardeau, MO

101 Court St. Jackson, MO

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