Champlin woman admits to stealing $54K from PTO

  • Updated: July 3, 2013 - 8:31 PM

A Champlin woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $54,000 from an elementary school parent-teacher organization whose finances she was overseeing, and prosecutors will seek a year behind bars as her punishment.

Melissa O’Brien, 31, entered the plea to a single count of theft by swindle over $35,000 last week in Hennepin County District Court. She is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 4.

Her husband, Dusty O’Brien, 34, was charged with theft by swindle over $1,000. He is scheduled to make his next court appearance July 11.

Melissa O’Brien was treasurer of the Oxbow Creek Elementary School PTO from September to December 2012, the charges say. When she took over, the organization had about $11,000 in the bank, and after some fundraisers, the amount jumped to nearly $100,000.

Instead of using the money to pay bills, O’Brien allegedly withdrew cash, wrote checks to herself and other family members, and set up direct payments to her creditors. She also provided her husband with PTO checks, which he wrote out for costs totaling about $1,500, the charges say.

When a PTO check bounced in December, board members reviewed the bank records and uncovered the embezzlement. The insurance bill O’Brien was supposed to pay would have covered the amount lost, but the policy expired when she didn’t pay the premium.

O’Brien, who has three children at the school, underwent a background check before taking over the position.

Although state sentencing guidelines call for probation, prosecutors intend to ask for O’Brien to pay full restitution and to serve a sentence of up to a year in the Hennepin County workhouse.

ABBY SIMONS

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