Ira, Vt., is a whisper of a town, with just 447 residents, no school, no downtown, and miles of unpaved roads. So it's an understatement to say the town was abuzz when its mild-mannered treasurer was accused of cooking the books. And they were downright floored when they learned Donald Hewitt had embezzled $400,000 over 30 years. To put it into perspective, the town government's annual budget is just $212,000, reports the AP.
Hewitt, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud today and could face 20 years in prison, reportedly wrote checks to himself out of the town equipment and cemetery funds, stole residents' property tax payments, and bypassed paying his own at all. "Everyone trusted me," said Hewitt, who held the elected, part-time post from 1977 to 2009 and operated it from an office in his home. "It feels like he stole $1,000 from each one of us," said the town clerk. "He does need to be punished," adds a town board member. "Do I want to spend any more of my money (imprisoning) Donald Hewitt? I do not. But I do not want to see Donald Hewitt get away scot-free, with his hand slapped, either." (Read more Vermont stories.)