Woman accused of collecting donations for fake charity pleads guilty


BENNINGTON — A Sudbury woman who police say collected donations for a fake charity and altered the checks to be cashed at a higher amount has pleaded guilty.

Sara M. Wilbur, 36, was sentenced to up to two years in jail and ordered to repay victims Tuesday after pleading guilty in Vermont Superior Court to five felony counts of forgery. Five felony counts of uttering a forged or counterfeited instrument were dismissed by the state.

Wilbur was also accused of running similar scams in Rutland and Shelburne, and in at least three counties in upstate New York. She pleaded guilty in Warren County, New York in January to charges of forgery and received up to four years in state prison, according to reports by the Post-Star newspaper in Glens Falls, N.Y.

Wilbur was arrested in Vermont on Aug. 13, 2014 after the Manchester Police Department received multiple reports of a woman soliciting donations for a children's charity. Individuals who wrote checks to Wilbur later reported the checks value had been altered to a higher amount before being cashed at local banks. In some instances, Wilbur used a variation of her name while soliciting.

According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Officer James Bossong, an employee of a Main Street business stated that on Aug. 7, 2014, a woman who identified herself as "Sara Luis" solicited her for donations, explaining that her son was involved in a tricycle race to benefit a young girl with cancer. The woman agreed to help "Luis" and wrote her a check for $25.

Police found the check was cashed at a local bank for $225 and the payee section had been changed to "Sara Luis Wilbur."

According to Bossong's affidavit, Wilbur changed the check's amount by writing the number "2" in front of the $25 amount and writing the word "two" in front of the written twenty dollar amount.

Wilbur solicited other Manchester businesses, where she carried out similar check alterations and described different variations of the supposed charity.

Wilbur also altered and cashed two checks written by employees of two Bennington automotive businesses, according to an affidavit by Bennington Police Sgt. David L. Dutcher. Dutcher spoke with two individuals in October of 2014 who reported having written checks to Wilbur that June. One individual said Wilbur described the charity as a "trike-a-thon" event for kids.

On a few occasions, Wilbur was seen on video surveillance footage provided by local banks, in which she was seen cashing the checks.

Wilbur was represented by the Bennington County Public Defender's Office.

Judge David A. Howard sentenced Wilbur to a maximum of two years in Chittendon Regional Correctional Facility with credit for time already served. Wilbur was also ordered to pay $1,015 in restitution to victims.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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