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Former Molalla city councilor sentenced for embezzlement

by: MOLALLA PIONEER - Michelle MillsFormer Molalla city councilor and Molalla Buckeroo Association president Michelle Mills was sentenced March 21 to three years, 11 months in prison for embezzling about $350,000 from her employer.

Mills, 37, was ordered to repay the money she took from Abtronics, a Molalla electronics distributor where she worked as a manager. Mills already has repaid about $20,000 and the $10,000 she posted as bail will be applied toward restitution.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Michael C. Wetzel said Mills’ conduct was “serious” and “involved a breach of trust.” The judge acknowledged, however, that Mills had ultimately taken responsibility for her actions working with investigators.

Mills apologized to the court, saying she wanted to begin paying restitution as soon as possible.

In January, Mills pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree aggravated theft. An additional 19 counts of aggravated theft, one count of theft and two counts of falsifying business records were dropped in plea bargain between Deputy District Attorney Michael Y. Wu and defense attorney Ronald Lore Gray.

Mills gave herself unauthorized raises, Wu said, and she used the company's credit cards to buy personal items and for gambling over the course of two years. He said it was not “just a single crime of opportunity,” and that Mills had the opportunity to stop, and yet she did not.

Wu asked Wetzel to impose a six-year, three-month prison sentence. Lore argued that a shorter prison sentence would allow Mills to begin repayment sooner because a long prison term might destroy incentive to make restitution. A pre-sentence investigation report ordered by the court recommended a three-year, two-month sentence.

The judge said he was bound to order a sentence that matched the severity of the crime, with the hope that Mills will comply when she is released from prison. He ordered Mills to be considered for alternative incarceration programs and for time off for good behavior, which together could cut her prison sentence by as much as 40 percent.