Judge orders three months jail time for Westport fire chief's wifeMelissa Stone, who along with her husband was charged with stealing thousands of dollars from the Westport Rural Fire Protection District and setting fire to the couple's home to cover up the crime, was sentenced to three months in jail today in Clatsop County Circuit Court.
Stone was also sentenced to three years' probation and required to repay $17,255 to the fire district and $1,988 to the volunteer Westport Fire Rescue Department.
Stone pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and first-degree aggravated theft in connection with the theft and the fire that destroyed their Westport home last February.
Fire investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set and a further probe found that Stone, who served as bookkeeper for the fire district, and her husband, who was the volunteer chief, had embezzled as much as $20,000 or more from the district.
Jeff Stone, also pleaded guilty to arson and theft charges and was sentenced to 13 months in prison last month.
"You stole money from these people to benefit yourself," Judge Paula Brownhill told Stone. "No one will ever trust you again, nor should they based on what you've done."
District Attorney Josh Marquis said the very records that proved the embezzlement were found in the spot in the house where the fire was stared, reportedly with a road flare. During the investigation the two "started pointing fingers at each other" to deflect blame for the crimes, but Jeff Stone received a harsher sentence, he said, because he was found to be more culpable in the arson.
A tearful Melissa Stone told Brownhill she took responsibility for her actions, but claimed she took over the bookkeeper job for the district without any experience or training. She had authority to sign checks for the district, but claimed her husband was in charge of many of the expenses. She also claimed he threatened to blame her if she exposed the theft.
"I just signed the checks and never asked questions. After awhile it seemed to snowball, and then we were in too deep," she said.
"How will you make this up to the Westport Fire District?" Brownhill asked her.
"I honestly don't know, but I'm willing to try until the day I die," Stone said, fighting back tears. "I never realized how enormous it was."
Brownhill required that Stone serve the full 90-day jail sentence with no possibility of early release or alternative sanctions.