Former Connell councilwoman sentenced to prison for theft

Tri-City HeraldNovember 5, 2013 

— A former Connell councilwoman was taken into custody Tuesday to start serving two years in prison for skimming $160,000 from a Mesa farm over almost seven years.

Monica Lou Pruett, 60, told the judge, “I’m sorry,” before she was sentenced for her previous guilty plea to first-degree theft.

She appeared before Judge Vic VanderSchoor in Franklin County Superior Court.

As part of her plea, Pruett must repay $160,142 to Bill Swensen, owner of D & S Farms. She had provided bookkeeping and accounting services for the farm through her Connell-based business, Lierman Business Services.

When she pleaded guilty Sept. 24, Pruett admitted that the crime involved a financial loss greater than is typical and the theft took place over an extended period of time.

The standard range for theft is up to three months in county jail, but Prosecutor Shawn Sant recommended prison time because of the aggravating circumstances.

VanderSchoor agreed.

A charge of money laundering was dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Pruett had been out of custody since posting a $5,000 bond a few days after her August 2012 arrest.

She was picked up by Franklin County sheriff’s detectives after a more than three-month investigation turned up details of the theft at Swensen’s farm.

Detectives were brought in when Swensen found that his farm owed about $100,000 to a Yakima company.

Swensen — who inherited the farm from his father — reportedly had been looking into the farm’s books and discovered extra checks in varying amounts were paid to Pruett’s business each month that had not been included in the monthly report. He later discovered other suspicious payments

The theft happened between June 2005 and April 2012. Pruett had been paid $200 a month by the farm to pay bills and provide periodic financial reports.

She stole the money to cover personal utility bills, property taxes and business expenses.

Pruett resigned from her council position as Connell’s mayor pro tem in September 2012, a month after prosecutors filed the charges.

w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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