Probation for woman who stole $15,000 from Fisher school group

 

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URBANA — A rural Mahomet woman who admitted she had a "spending problem" was sentenced to four years of probation Tuesday after admitting to stealing thousands of dollars intended for Fisher Elementary School students.

Elizabeth Bidner, 47, who listed an address on County Road 350 E, pleaded guilty before Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis to theft over $10,000.

Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher said Bidner stole more than $15,000 from Partners in Education, a group he described as akin to a parent-teacher association that supports the grade school but is not run by the district.

Fletcher said Bidner served as treasurer for the group for several years, even after her own child was too old to be among those it served. When the new treasurer took over in July 2018, Fletcher said, Bidner was reluctant to turn over the checkbook.

When the replacement treasurer examined the records, that person found checks written for cash by Bidner as frequently as three to four times a month between April 2014 and June 2018.

Fletcher said Bidner told sheriff's investigators that she was reimbursing herself for shipping costs and her employer for copying costs related to candy-sales fundraisers.

The employer told investigators it never received any money from her, and she ultimately admitted having a "spending problem," Fletcher said.

Bidner was ordered to repay $15,431.68 to Partners in Education in the first 42 months of her probation and perform 100 hours of public-service work. Fletcher said she had no prior criminal convictions.

The case was brought to the attention of the sheriff's office in mid-March, according to Lt. Curt Apperson. Detectives investigated, and the Class 2 felony theft charge was filed on May 31.

She made her first court appearance with Urbana attorney Tom Bruno on June 4.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).