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Brodhead woman pleads to stealing from nonprofit
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MONROE - A Brodhead woman charged with stealing more than $18,000 from a Green County disability advocacy group last year pleaded no contest Thursday to a reduced charge as part of a plea agreement in the case.

Brenda Lee Miller, 50, was originally charged with a Class G felony count of theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting. The plea agreement reduced it to a charge of theft of more than $5,000 in a business setting, a Class H felony.

Because Miller has already paid $14,000 in restitution, "I don't believe the original charges are necessary," said Green County Assistant District Attorney Laura Kohl.

Miller still owes $4,500, according to Kohl.

Miller said in court Thursday that she is unemployed and most recently worked as a special education aide in the Monroe and Albany school districts.

Kohl and defense attorney Jane Bucher will ask for three years of probation as part of their joint recommendation in the plea agreement, with Kohl asking for conditional jail time on top of that.

Judge James Beer granted their request for a Department of Corrections' pre-sentence investigation report on Miller, which takes 45 days to complete and ultimately makes a recommendation as to her sentencing.

Miller's sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 1. Beer requested a half day for the sentencing, not just a couple of hours, citing the number of witnesses on both sides.

Miller was serving as secretary of Green County's branch of The Arc when she made illicit withdrawals totaling $14,100 from the organization's bank account in August and September 2016, according to the criminal complaint. Nikolaus Faessler, president of The Arc of Green County, said the total was misrepresented in the initial criminal complaint and actually added up to $18,500 in stolen funds.

Security footage from Woodford State Bank in Monroe showed her making the transactions.

"I went through many stages of grief when the bank called and told me that our account had been emptied out," Faessler wrote in a statement to the court earlier this year. The Arc is a national organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"We as a nonprofit were devastated by loss ... We worked hard to earn this money and had intentions to use it to help people with disabilities," Faessler wrote.

Since the theft, "some members came forward financially to cover the most basic bills and help us continue.

"Ms. Miller made some bad choices and devastated our small group," Faessler wrote, but she "did not quash our spirit."