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Director of Victims’ Rights Group Sent to Prison for Embezzlement

A Pennsylvania federal district court has sentenced a woman to two years in prison for stealing money from a victims’ rights organization she headed.

Between June 2006 and June 2008, Mary Beth Semerod, now 59, stole $205,883.52 from the Rape & Victim Assistance Center in Schuylkill County while she served as the Center’s executive director. Semerod was dismissed from her position in October 2008 and the Center closed in 2009. She reportedly used the embezzled funds to pay department store bills.

A federal grand jury indicted Semerod in October 2010 on a charge of theft from a program that receives federal funding; she pleaded guilty in November 2011 and was sentenced on June 6, 2012.

“There are no good reasons, ever, that can justify” her behavior, Semerod told the court. “I affected the lives of people whom I loved. I am sorry that these actions ... caused these kinds of pain.”

While her attorney sought a non-prison sentence, the prosecutor argued that incarceration was warranted because the crime played a significant role in the closure of the Center.

“This was an embezzlement scheme that happened over the course of a couple years. It was not a single occurrence. It was committed with planning and it was not of limited duration. It was very serious,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus, Jr. “There has to be punishment for it. There has to be deterrence. We submit that a sentence of probation would not reflect the seriousness of the offense.”

U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik agreed. “What’s right is right and has to be done,” he stated when sentencing Semerod to 24 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release. He also ordered her to pay restitution of $205,883.52.

“It’s a tragic situation,” said Semerod’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Hervery Young.

Semerod is currently in a residential reentry center with a scheduled release date of June 13, 2014. While incarcerated she has been making restitution payments of $25 per month.

Sources:, U.S. Attorney’s Office press release

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