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By BILLY SINGLETON
Daily News Staff Writer
Nancia L. Christian, 49, was sentenced Monday in Ketchikan Superior Court after pleading guilty to first-degree theft, a Class B felony.
According to court documents, Christian embezzled a total of $67,095 from a local Rotary Club during her 2009-2015 tenure as the chapter’s treasurer. The embezzlement took the form of about 257 unauthorized purchases, the documents state.
Christian had been charged with two counts of second-degree forgery as well, but these charges were dropped Monday as part of her plea agreement.
Christian’s sentence includes three years of probation and requires that she pay $60,510 in restitution to Rotary 2000 at a rate of no less than $100 per month. Christian will be allowed to remain in Arkansas, where she currently lives, while serving out her probation.
She also was sentenced to 54 months of incarceration, all of which were suspended. Both the defense and prosecution supported suspending the incarceration so that Christian could work toward paying her restitution. Superior Court Judge William B. Carey said that he agreed.
“What good would it do to have Ms. Christian incarcerated for a period of time when she couldn’t contribute to restitution and so forth?” Carey said Monday during court proceedings.
According to court documents, a club member reported the embezzlement to the Ketchikan Police Department on Feb. 9, 2016. A Rotary board member told police that Christian had been removed from the position as treasurer several months earlier, due to her difficulty with alcohol and the loss of her job at the Tongass Federal Credit Union, the documents further state.
Detective Ryan Hanis of the Ketchikan Police Department subsequently investigated, concluding that Christian had used funds from the Rotary club’s bank accounts to make the unauthorized purchases, which were unrelated to Rotary, over the course of several years, court documents state. She also forged checks, took out a credit card and withdrew Rotary funds from an ATM, the documents state.
On April 27, 2017, Christian was charged with one count of first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree forgery. At that time, Christian was in Arkansas, enrolled in a residential alcohol treatment program. She completed the 13-month program in July and remained in Arkansas, continuing to appear in court telephonically.
Christian entered a guilty plea and was sentenced Monday, the terms of which were determined in a plea agreement. She pleaded guilty to theft and admitted to “aggravating circumstances,” which Carey on Monday described as stating “there have been repeated instances of criminal conduct similar in nature to that with which you are charged.” The prosecution asked for this admission, and Christian accepted, because it legally allowed the suspended incarceration sentence to exceed the usual limit for the charge.
In addition to the penalties mentioned earlier, the plea deal also required that Christian submit a public apology in the form of a letter to the editor of the Ketchikan Daily News.
The conditions of Christian’s three-year probation prohibit, among other things, possessing or consuming alcohol, entering businesses that sell primarily alcohol, writing checks without the approval of a probation officer, and engaging in several activities related to handling money for businesses and volunteer organizations.
Christian’s defense attorney on Monday said that her crimes had been influenced by her alcoholism.
“This was very much alcohol related,” Jay Hochberg, Christian’s attorney, said in court Monday. “This was a woman with a very significant alcohol problem, who was having difficulty in her life because of her alcoholism.”
“More than just saying sorry, she has put that into practice — she has put herself into over a year of inpatient treatment,” Hochberg added. “... You can’t start repairing the world until you repair yourself. She’s well on the way to doing that.”
During the proceedings, Rotary 2000 Vice President Tiffany Cook was allowed to make a statement on the crime’s impact.
“This wasn't our money,” Cook said. “This was money that we donated and raised to do good in the community. And I think that made it sting even that much more.”
She added that the case’s resolution will help the club’s members move forward from the crime.
“Once we get the documentation from this hearing we can start to be made whole again … [and] move forward from a really ugly chapter,” Cook said.