CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Kanawha County Magistrate Julie Yeager has pleaded guilty to two felony crimes.
Yeager appeared in Kanawha County Circuit Court under Judge Duke Bloom on Friday to enter the guilty pleas of embezzlement and fraudulent schemes. As treasurer, she took more than $30,000 for personal use from the West Virginia Magistrate Association.
When she is sentenced in April, Yeager will face the possibility from one to 10 years in prison on each count.
Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller, who was appointed as special prosecutor in the case, says those would be appropriate sentences.
“Under the embezzlement statue it is specifically embezzlement by a public official,” she said. “A public official deserves a more serious penalty because it is the entire public that official is harming by the breach of trust.”
Yeager’s attorney, Jesse Forbes, told reporters Friday they that hope the court will see there is little good done by putting her in jail.
“She is deeply apologetic and remorseful for what she has done in this case,” he said. “It has been several years since the incidents came to light and all the money has been repaid.
“She has had to start over with a very medial job. She has lost her retirement benefits and she has been punished. She has children in college and she will be a convicted felon for the rest of her life. We are hopeful that at that time that will be taken into consideration.”
In the plea deal, Yeager has lost eligibility to her retirement benefits and will never be able to seek or hold public office again. Yeager and her family have previously made full restitution for the total amount taken.
The crime, that became open when Yeager withdrew the account and caught the attention of bank officials, was investigated thoroughly by the State Auditor’s office. The office went from 2010, when she first became treasurer, to July 2017.
State Auditor John B. McCuskey released a statement Friday on Keller reaching out to his office for help in the case, “We are humbled and grateful to play a role in holding people in positions of power accountable when they abuse the public’s trust.”
Yeager will be sentenced on April 26 as Forbes said this is a cautionary tale every public official or individual that has access to people’s money.
“They ought to not be out taking it from somebody because you will get caught,” he said. “This is a situation that Miss Yeager did wrong. She had admitted that from the beginning when it came to light that what she did was inappropriate, it was wrong, it was a crime. She is now a convicted felon and she is going to have to live with that for the rest of her life as she should.”