bennington superior court

Vermont Superior Court and State Office Building in Bennington.

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BENNINGTON — Two former clerks at a Dorset store have been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to felony charges of embezzlement.

Lea Morse, of East Arlington, was sentenced last week to a year of probation for embezzling more than $100 worth of goods from HasGas General Store. This was part of her deferred sentence under a plea deal with the state, meaning she could still be penalized up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine on the embezzlement charge if she violates the terms of her probation.

Morse, 48, admitted printing out and scratching off lottery tickets — without paying for them — while working at HasGas between April 2017 and August 2018. As a clerk, she was in charge of the store’s lottery ticket sales.

The total value of the tickets she embezzled is unclear, but there will be a separate restitution hearing on the matter, said Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett. The prosecutor asked the court to accept Morse’s plea agreement, though he said he believed the store owner would prefer a harsher sentence.

State police earlier said Morse’s in-store lottery playing came to light in 2018 when another HasGas employee noticed multiple crumpled lottery tickets in the store garbage. A police search of the garbage bag reportedly turned up 108 pieces of $10 lottery tickets. Police alleged that Morse had taken between $12,700 and $22,500 worth of lottery tickets from HasGas.

Investigators said she’d talked about having a gambling problem.

At her June 30 sentencing, Morse said she’d “made a mistake.” She said she was willing to pay restitution and was happy for the opportunity to “take care” of her mistakes.

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If she completes probation, her felony case will be dismissed and it will be expunged from her record.

Another former HasGas clerk, Hazel Prouty, was also given a deferred sentence for embezzling more than $100 worth of goods from the store. She was sentenced to four years of probation in September, after pleading guilty to the felony offense.

Prouty, 58, of Pawlet, worked at the store before Morse did.

State police said that between December 2013 and November 2016, she’d taken around $4,800 worth of cigarettes and $4,700-$8,500 in lottery tickets.

Police said she “routinely stole” other store merchandise, such as deli meat, gas and toilet paper.

Her probationary conditions, according to court records, include staying away from HasGas and informing any employer of her embezzlement conviction.

The court also ordered both Morse and Prouty to participate in restorative justice programming.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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