FARMINGTON — A longtime treasurer for the Care and Share Food Closet allegedly has stolen more than $10,000 of donated money from the nonprofit organization since 2010, police say.

Mary L. O’Donal, 74, of Farmington, was summoned on a felony charge of theft by unauthorized taking, class B, in April after an investigation by Farmington police Detective Marc Bowering. O’Donal was arraigned on the charge at a June 28 court appearance. However, since she has not been indicted on the charge by a grand jury, she did not enter a plea.

Bowering could not disclose how much money O’Donal allegedly stole or the means by which it was taken, though he said a “substantial amount” of money was taken and that O’Donal turned in $15,000 to police. The class B theft felony is the highest theft charge possible in the state and includes anything higher than that amount.

O’Donal was treasurer for the Care and Share Food Closet on Fairbanks Road for more than a decade, voluntarily resigning in November before discrepancies in financial records were realized by the food pantry’s director.

“This is devastating to all, but especially everyone who has given so much to make this much-needed charity a success. We trusted in the honesty of this individual due to her reputation and her decades of service work,” executive director Leiza Hiltz Scerbo said in a statement Thursday.

The Care and Share Food Closet is a project run by the Farmington Area Ecumenical Minisitry and serves residents of Farmington, New Sharon, Chesterville, Temple, New Vineyard and New Portland.

Hiltz Scerbo was hired as the executive director in January 2015. In mid-2015 she implemented new procedures for how the organization processed its donations, including a four-person financial team to check and balance the donation processing.

Before the new system, O’Donal was the only person overseeing the donations processing and was the only signer for the charity’s account, Hiltz Scerbo said.

In late 2015, Hiltz Scerbo requested all financial information collected by O’Donal as treasurer. After she went through the documents with other Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry board members, discrepancies were found, and the organization contacted the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, at which point Bowering was contacted to launch an investigation.

The arrest is the latest in central Maine of someone overseeing money for an organization or institution and then being charged with stealing from it. The most high-profile was Claudia Viles, the former Anson tax collector who was convicted last month of stealing more than a half million dollars from the town of Anson.

Law enforcement and financial officials said at the time that a lack of oversight, lack of technology and few checks and balances for processing money often make organizations and small-town government vulnerable to such crimes. Preliminary figures show that in 2015, 46 embezzlement arrests were made in Maine — across both public and private sectors — down from 78 in 2014, according to the Department of Public Safety. There were 57 in 2012 and 43 in 2013.

“It amazes me how often a single employee has control over hundreds of thousands of dollars with no checks and balances,” Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland told the Morning Sentinel after Viles was convicted. He said such cases are reported among government, businesses and charitable organizations.

According to court documents, O’Donal is accused of stealing the money between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 30, 2015. Bowering said police are continuing to investigate additional documentation related to the case. Class B theft is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

“These funds were meant to feed the hungry in our communities, not to be used for any personal gain of anyone entrusted with the disbursement of funds,” Hiltz Scerbo said.

O’Donal is scheduled to appear in court again Aug. 1.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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