A Litchfield woman pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to one count of wire fraud stemming from transactions she made during a five-year span as finance director at the Augusta-based Women Unlimited, reportedly including company credit card payments toward a mobile phone game.

Jessica Childs, 38, of Litchfield, whose wire fraud charge was connected to the nonprofit and Kennebec Savings Bank, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1 million and may be ordered to pay restitution, according to court documents.

Lib Jamison, executive director of Women Unlimited when it closed its doors, told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that she discovered Childs’ wrongdoing in October 2015 when she and an employee discussed Childs coming into work late and leaving early. Shortly after that meeting, a forensic audit that discovered years of falsified transaction reports and records of cash advances resulted in Childs being fired.

“This was like layers of an onion,” Jamison said. “The betrayal, not even for myself, but for my staff was staggering.”

Further, Jamison said Childs made an Amazon account where she made “enormous numbers of purchases” on the company credit card, including “a significant number of lives in Candy Crush” — a popular mobile puzzle game.

Women Unlimited was a statewide nonprofit that offered employment support and prepare women — and later other disadvantaged populations — for work a number of trades.

Jamison said the nonprofit closed March 11, 2016, which was “directly correlated” to Childs’s actions. She could not remember how much money the nonprofit was defrauded, but said it was more than the $302 referenced in the court docket.

“(Women Unlimited) offered excellent training and great help in getting jobs (and) really had a 28-year history that was amazing,” Jamison said. “She knocked us out of our careers (and,) emotionally, we’re all damaged from this.”

Neither Childs nor her lawyer, Stacey D. Neumann, were available for comment on Friday.

Prosecutors said Childs’s role at Women Unlimited gave her access to bank accounts, credit cards issued through Kennebec Savings Bank and the accounting system. Beginning around February 2010, prosecutors said Childs would make personal purchases using the company credit card and get cash advances to make personal purchases. Officials at Women Unlimited were not aware of these actions.

Further, Childs would use Women Unlimited’s funds to pay the charges on the card. Her actions were discovered in October 2015. In Augusta 2015, Childs used the credit card to obtain $302 in cash using an ATM in Augusta. Prosecutors said her actions defrauded Women Unlimited and Kennebec Savings Bank because the bank “charged off a portion of the fraudulent purchases and advances.”

Childs was also the chair of the Regional School Unit 4 Board of Directors before resigning after the March 27 meeting. Minutes from the March 27 school board meeting said Childs intended to resign “due to work commitments” and her name was not on the board members list on the April 10 meeting minutes. Current board chair Robert English, of Wales, said he was unaware of the wire fraud charges.

The Hanover Insurance Group is included on a list of parties affected, but it is not described how that party was affected in court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff told the Kennebec Journal on Wednesday the single charge is related to the “scheme” Childs carried out during the 5-year period mentioned in court documents. Wolff could not speculate if more charges would be brought against Childs, but did say a pre-sentence investigation will “develop” the case. He could not say how much money was taken from Women Unlimited, as he was limited to what was in the public record.

Childs was released on a personal recognizance bond. Sentencing for Childs is scheduled for August 14.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME


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