Former treasurer found guilty of stealing from Plaistow Fish and Game
BRENTWOOD - A jury convicted an ex-treasurer for the Plaistow Fish and Game Club of stealing $200,000 from the nonprofit's coffers, rejecting an argument that he was only borrowing the money to shore up his failing construction business.
Alan Colby, 52, is now free on bail awaiting sentencing on six felony counts of theft by unauthorized taking for helping himself to the gun club's money and returning roughly $96,000 before drawing the attention of police.
Colby offered no reaction when the jury entered courtroom 2 on Tuesday afternoon to return their verdict following an hour and a half of deliberation.
Club members realized their books were not right when they began to ask Colby about handing over records needed for an audit around late 2010, according to court testimony.
Before going to police, the club's then president, John Poole, realized Colby had been transferring thousands of dollars electronically to his construction business, Senter Brothers, from the club's accounts.
Colby returned about $96,000 during the three year period. The club was left with a $104,000 deficit, prosecutors said.
At trial, Colby claimed he had no intention of actually stealing the funds and got caught up in a piecemeal scheme to borrow and return money that went awry.
Defense lawyer Anthony Naro encouraged jurors to scrutinize bank records that include transactions of Colby returning funds, saying it demonstrates there was no intent to steal.
"When you look at that you'll see he is trying to pay it back," Naro said.
Assistant County Attorney Stephanie Johnson argued during closing arguments on Tuesday that Colby only stopped taking money from the account when the bank barred his access to it.
"And let's not forget he also stopped paying them back," Johnson told jurors.
The defense cast Colby as too proud to ask for help after Senter Brothers was the victim of a series of break-ins and a sour economy in 2008.
Johnson argued that Colby should not have felt entitled to reach into club coffers to save his business.
"Plenty of businesses fail, plenty of people fail," Johnson argued. "It doesn't mean when you are treasurer of a nonprofit organization you can help yourself to their money."
Colby is facing up to 7½ to 15 years in state prison when he appears for sentencing. Judge Kenneth McHugh ordered a pre-sentence investigation so that probation officials can recommend a potential punishment.