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James River Humane Society

Theft of almost $22,000 shocks Jamestown Humane Society

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The theft of almost $22,000 from the James River Humane Society by its former treasurer has left the nonprofit's executive board feeling unsettled.

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Jillisa Lesmann, 30, New Rockford, N.D., pleaded guilty Feb. 13 to theft of property, a Class B felony in Southeast District Court.

Lesmann was accused of making an unauthorized transfer of more than $10,000 between the dates of April 1, 2012, and June 12, 2012, from the James River Humane Society.

"We were blindsided," said Jennifer Barnard, JRHS president. "This is a lot of money for us. We're here for the animals, and to steal from a nonprofit, it's just upsetting."

Barnard said she and two other members of the executive board review the society's bank statements on a monthly basis.

"We were going through the monthly bank statements, and things were not adding up," Barnard said. "We contacted our banker, Sue Haas at Unison Bank, and she was a tremendous help."

Barnard and Haas then contacted the Stutsman County Sheriff's Office, which did its own investigation.

Lesmann was the society's treasurer at the time. Barnard said Lesmann started as a volunteer and worked her way up to being chosen as treasurer.

"She was only with us for a few months," she said. "We were fortunate we caught when we did."

Judge John Greenwood sentenced Lesmann to 30 days at the Stutsman County Correctional Center and to five years supervised probation. She was also ordered to pay a $650 criminal administration fee, $100 defense/facility administration fee, $21,908.75 restitution and $25 victim-witness fee.

Lesmann will pay the restitution amount back as part of her overall fine and fees. The funds will go through the courts, then to the JRHS.

Barnard said the restitution amount, $21,908.75, is the amount they were able to prove Lesmann took through checks drawn on the society's bank accounts.

Having that much taken from the society's coffers did hurt the JRHS some, according to Barnard.

"We have a great supportive community, so we were able to pump up our fundraising," she said.

Barnard declined to go into details as to what changes the executive board has made. She said they have changed the society's bylaws to ensure nothing like this happens again.

"This is an unfortunate incident. Regardless, the Humane Society will continue to provide humane care and treatment for the shelter animals while they wait for their forever homes," Dana Wallace, current JRHS treasurer, said in a prepared statement.

Barnard said she personally is happy the situation has been resolved and looks forward to things getting back to normal.

"Most of the hours here (at the society) are volunteered," she said, "We're all here for the animals."

A Class B felony is punishable by 10 years and $10,000 in fines.

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