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Elizabeth Rhode gets three years probation for taking funds from foundation

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Elizabeth Rhode shows a reporter her plans to create a pioneer-style farm and historical center on 418 acres on Parrett Mountain in 2007.More than three years after she was arrested and accused of stealing money from a charity she led, Elizabeth Rhode was sentenced Tuesday to three years of probation.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom handed down the sentence in the Yamhill County Courthouse after Rhode pleaded no contest in September to a single count of aggravated theft in connection with money found missing from the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation.

Rhode was serving as executive director of the foundation, which oversees the operations of Parrett Mountain Farm south of Sherwood, until her arrest in September 2009. The foundation was established before Rhode’s step-grandmother, Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee, died in 2007.

As part of her sentence, Rhode was required to complete 200 hours of community service, which she has already served at several different organizations including an animal shelter, according to Ladd Wiles, the Yamhill County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case. She has also served a 45-day house arrest that included wearing an electronic monitoring device.

Kristi Pfarr, who is an officer on the foundation’s board, read a statement during the sentencing saying the last three years have had a huge impact on the very survival of the foundation.

“We are so sad and worried about her next victim,” Pfarr said of Rhode.

Before Crystal Rilee died, a trust was set up to preserve 418 acres of her property on Parrett Mountain.

Judge Bergstrom told those gathered Tuesday that, “It’s been a very difficult and emotional case for everybody.”

Wiles said while he’s pleased his portion of the case is over, a separate civil case filed against Rhode hadn’t been finalized as of Tuesday and charges of tax evasion filed in Marion County have yet to be resolved. He said the actual dollar amount of missing money couldn’t be calculated until those cases are closed.

“I’ll feel better when all these cases get resolved,” he said.

Rhode was originally arrested in 2009 on charges of theft and forgery regarding the removal of funds and property from the foundation. At the time, she was living in the farmhouse on the property, something that could change after all the cases are closed, Wiles said.

Her arrest followed an investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice’s charitable activities section and the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Department.

As part of her sentence, Rhode is also prohibited from having contact with those involved with the foundation and cannot work for another charitable foundation.

Violation of the terms of her probation could mean she will face jail time, Wiles said.

In the past, Parrett Mountain Farm has been the site of art shows, and in the summer of 2009, cannons dotted the rolling hills of the farm as 381 Civil War re-enactors hosted a “battle” there.

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