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February 7, 2014

Mifflinburg business owner charged with theft from charity

ALLENWOOD — MIFFLINBURG — Three years before becoming the inaugural winner of the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center’s Small Business Person of the Year Award, Jill Adams stole more than $4,000 from a nonprofit organization that was to benefit children with cancer, Milton state police report.

Troopers on Thursday arrested Adams, owner of Remember When, 3 S. 11th St., Mifflinburg, on charges she used money collected for the charity to pay bills at her business in 2009.

Adams’ business hosted the 2009 Taste of Mifflinburg, an event that began in 2003 and raised up to $10,000 a year, according to court documents. From 2007 to 2009, proceeds benefited The Blue Butterfly Fund, founded by John Sterling, of Mifflinburg, who began the charity in 2007 after his 18-month-old son, Bennett, died of a brain tumor.

From the night of the event, May 22, through early August 2009, several Blue Butterfly Fund committee members made numerous requests to Adams for the proceeds, troopers report. Two meetings were scheduled in which Adams was to turn over the funds, but she never showed, court documents state.

Sterling’s wife, Elizabeth, made arrangements to meet with Adams on Aug. 3 to retrieve the funds at Remember When. Upon arriving, Elizabeth Sterling found Adams was not there, but a store employee gave her a bank bag containing $2,376.

After three years of participating in the event, John Sterling said he became suspicious when suddenly the proceeds dropped by a significant amount.

The 2009 event consisted of live, silent and Chinese auctions, and a 50-50 raffle, police said.

John Sterling contacted police, who began an investigation, Sterling said Thursday.

In trying to explain the proceeds amount, Adams stated she had 111 ticket stubs sold for the event, and that she paid bills generated by the fundraiser, troopers said.

While being interviewed by troopers, Adams was asked to provide copies of the paid bills. She gave police copies of six invoices she claimed as bills, according to court documents. Of the six invoices, only two were bills, and totaled $53.03, court documents state.

Other invoices were documents provided by businesses showing their donations to the Taste of Mifflinburg, police said.

Adams claimed to have paid Ard’s Farm Market, but troopers investigated and found Ard’s had not been paid because it didn’t bill for the event, court documents said.

Adams denied taking money and said she was guilty of only poor organization and blamed that on a lack of help she received in planning and executing the Taste of Mifflinburg event, police said.

Adams admitted she was behind in her finances in 2009, police said.

Four years later, police continued to investigate and on Jan. 28, called Adams to the state police barracks, where they questioned her again, court documents state.

Adams told police she took possession of proceeds from the 2009 fundraiser and counted the money with an event volunteer, police said.

Adams estimated the total to be several thousand dollars, police said.

Adams told police she placed the money in a bank bag in the safe of Remember When, where it remained until she handed it over to Sterling, police said.

Adams again told police she was having financial problems, but denied taking the money for personal reasons, police said.

Adams told police the money disappeared at one point from her safe, but she refused to say someone may have stolen the bank bag, troopers said.

Later in the interview, Adams admitted to police she may have paid an electric bill with some of the proceeds and later confessed to paying several bills related to her store, court documents said.

“This is all a shame,” John Sterling said Thursday. “I feel awful about the whole thing.”

Sterling said after the 2009 event, The Blue Butterfly Fund closed and all the proceeds were donated to Camp Victory for Kids, Millville.

Adams was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received and receiving stolen property, both felonies.

Adams appeared before Mifflinburg District Judge Jeffrey Mensch on Thursday and was released on $5,000 unsecured bail.

On Oct. 5, 2012, the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center hosted the Charles H. Coder Celebration of Growing Small Businesses to highlight new business growth initiatives and entrepreneurial innovation in the community. Adams received the Small Business Person of the Year Award, which recognized “sustained business success and an ongoing commitment to economic prosperity in central Pennsylvania.” Remember When is an antique and gifts business.

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