Former embezzler faces new court sanctions

BURLINGTON — A former Bristol woman who was charged with three unrelated embezzlements over seven years has admitted she violated her federal supervised release conditions.
Billie Laflam Preston appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Monday, Nov. 25, to face a federal charge that her third arrest in December 2016 violated an earlier court order requiring her to live crime-free.
Defense lawyer Karen Shingler said a state jury in Addison County found her client not guilty of felony embezzlement in August 2018, but convicted her for misdemeanor petty larceny. A two-month prison sentence was imposed, Shingler said.
Shingler argued that Preston, who will soon turn 47 years old, should not be punished any more. Shingler said she was working for a Williston landscaping and snowplowing company and is not handling money.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples said he thought a jail sentence was appropriate. He said the latest theft case came just four months after Preston had been released from federal prison for embezzlement.
“It is a breach of trust against the court,” he said.
Judge Christina Reiss said she would give Preston credit for time served and impose a one-year supervised release term. The first six months would include a home detention curfew, the judge said.
Preston said she has been working hard. She lives with her daughter in a two-bedroom apartment. She is chipping away at the earlier restitution order and still owes $68,751.
While her first two embezzlement convictions were under the name Billie Preston, the court was told Monday that she now prefers to go by her maiden name, Billie LaFlam.
Preston maintained the missing money was a misunderstanding when she was working at a Bristol store. Preston said she believed she was entitled to take the tips at the store due to information she read from the Department of Labor website.
The Almost Home Market on North Street called Bristol police after determining about $100 was missing on Dec. 16, 2016, and detected another $32 was missing five days later, records show.
“I didn’t believe I was doing anything wrong,” said Preston, a 1996 graduate of Champlain College, where she majored in accounting.
Reiss said she could have asked. The judge called it “bold, brazen or crazy behavior.”
The federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, proposed a penalty between four and 10 months, but Reiss opted to go lower.
Preston, formerly of Monkton, was sentenced in federal court in 2015 to almost two years in prison for wire fraud in connection with the embezzlement of more than $86,000 from a Williston company, records show. Preston was put under court order to repay the money to Endyne Inc., an environmental testing lab.
Preston had embezzled from Endyne in part to pay $15,056 in restitution to University Wholesalers — now known as Nokian Tyres — in Colchester for her first embezzlement case in 2010, court records show.

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