GREENCASTLE -- A Poland woman convicted of embezzling from a Cloverdale church is going to jail.
On Thursday, Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Headley sentence Michelle S. Everhart, 36, to two years with six months executed in the Putnam County Jail.
After serving that time, Everhart will spend six months on home detention and one year on probation.
Everhart's court-appointed attorney Melinda Jackman-Hanlin, lobbied to have her client serve any executed time on home detention. Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwater countered that by asking Headley to consider putting Everhart in jail for a year.
"She's a thief," Bookwalter said. "The only reason we're going to get restitution is because we set a high enough board."
Everhart was convicted of a Class D felony theft for taking funds by various means from the Cloverdale United Methodist Church, where she was employed as an administrative assistant.
"At that point in my life, I was not in the right mental state," Everhart said in court. "We were having financial problems. My husband works in construction and he was going in and out of layoffs. We were having issues with trying to pay our bills."
Everhart was arrested on Aug. 25. She paid a $6,000 cash bond and was released from jail five days later.
Everhart used two of the church's credit cards -- a Visa and a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club card -- to make unauthorized purchases. She also admitted to writing unauthorized checks from the church's missions fund account -- which is used to support the Putnam County Pregnancy Center, assist abused women and supplied infants and children with food and clothing -- and taking cash from the church's collection plate.
"In my mind, I was thinking, 'I can use this and pay it back,'" Everhart said. "It just progressively got worse."
Court documents said Everhart stole from the church on 79 occasions. The state requested restitution in the amount of $5,767.92, which included $600 for an audit the church had conducted.
Everhart and Jackman-Hanlin disputed dozens of the allegedly fraudulent charges. Headley said he would subtract some of those charges and would enter a restitution amount later.
Everhart, a married mother of three, began working at the church on March 15, 2007. According to court documents, she began stealing funds a week later.
The thefts came to light this past summer. Representatives of the church told authorities it had been discovered they were not getting bank or credit card statements and requested additional statements be sent to a different address. Upon receipt of those statements, church officials began to suspect Everhart of embezzling.
Church officials confronted Everhart and terminated her employment in August.
Everhart originally said she had begun stealing in December 2007 and used the stolen funds to purchase Christmas gifts for her family. Court records show the thefts started long before the holiday season and the credit cards had been used to purchase items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, fuel and tires for Everhart's personal vehicle, gourmet coffees, cosmetics, gift cards from Best Buy, clothing, toys, meals at restaurants, electric, telephone and propane bills for Everhart's personal residence, as well as dental work for one of her children.
The church hired Bray and Associates CPAs, LLC, Greencastle, to conduct an audit, and it was discovered the first theft from the church was committed March 22, 2007.
Everhart has two weeks to report and begin serving her sentence. She will receive credit for five days she has already served.
This is not Everhart's first theft conviction.
In February 2002, she was convicted in Marion County of stealing funds from the Boy Scouts of America. She served as the treasurer of that organization.
She qualified for alternative misdemeanor sentencing in that case.