By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A Connecticut woman pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling more than $1 million from the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
Donna Gregor, 58, of East Hartford, pleaded guilty in Bridgeport to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, federal prosecutors said.
“This case represents a breach of trust by a long-term employee of the Mark Twain House & Museum, a venerable Hartford landmark and institution of learning,” said U.S. Attorney David Fein. “Individuals who steal from employers that rely so heavily on the contributions of individuals to operate are, in effect, stealing directly from those contributors. As a result, we will strongly advocate not only for an appropriate prison term, but also for restitution of the stolen funds.”
The thefts occurred during a time when the Twain House was in dire financial straits, trying to repay millions in bank loans from expansions and struggling to meet its yearly budget.
In 2008, it even cut two-thirds of its staff and made other reductions, but had barely enough money to pay three weeks’ worth of bills before publicity generated a spate of donations.
The gingerbread Gothic home was built in 1874 by the author and humorist who, coincidentally, often struggled with debt and had to sell the home in 1903.
Authorities say Gregor submitted false information via the Internet to the museum’s payroll management vendor to get more pay than she was entitled to and used the museum’s check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged the signatures of her supervisors on those checks.
Prosecutors said she used the proceeds of her theft for home improvements, theater tickets, dining out, mortgage payments, credit card payments and car payments.
Gregor faces up to 23 years in prison, a fine of about $2 million and restitution when she is sentenced Oct. 24.
“It’s a very difficult situation for everyone that’s involved,” said her attorney, Gerry Giaimo.
He said he expected Gregor would speak at her sentencing.
Associated Press writer Stephanie Reitz contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)