(Reuters) – A former employee of author Mark Twain’s historic Connecticut home who admitted to embezzling more than $1 million from it in a long-running scheme was sentenced on Monday to 3-1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of and taxes on the stolen funds.
Judge Warren Eginton of U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sentenced Donna Gregor, 58, of East Hartford to 42 months in prison and three years of supervised release for the theft, David Fein, U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, said in a statement.
According to court documents and in-court statements, Gregor used two different methods to embezzle $1,080,811 from Hartford’s Mark Twain House between 2002 and 2010, and used the proceeds for theater tickets, dining out, mortgage payments, home improvements and credit card and car payments, Fein said.
Gregor, a long-time employee of the prolific American writer’s former home and museum, admitted in August to fudging the accounting to steal from the financially troubled business. She pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and filing a false tax return.
Eginton ordered her to repay the Mark Twain House and the insurance company that has paid out $500,000 on the loss. She also failed to pay federal taxes and was ordered to pay the Internal Revenue Service $322,970 on the stolen funds.
Gregor had faced a maximum term of 23 years and a fine of up to $2 million.
Twain, born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, had money troubles himself while living in the home from 1874 to 1891 — a period in which he wrote such American classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.”
Twain ultimately had to leave the Victorian Gothic home for lecture tours of Europe because of financial troubles.
Authorities say Gregor submitted false information over the Internet to the museum’s payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010, with the misinformation leading to additional money being deposited to her bank account, classified as payroll advances.
She adjusted ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items, and she falsified the museum’s bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said.
Gregor allegedly also used Mark Twain House’s check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor’s signatures on those checks.
The theft was discovered by a bank employee who questioned the signatures on the checks, according to a board member of the historic home.