- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The former city clerk of a tiny southeast Kansas community was spared prison Wednesday but ordered to repay the almost $60,000 she embezzled from her town and church.

Diana Cox, 67, of Havana, told the court she was ashamed and apologized before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten handed down a sentence for two years of supervised release.

Marten cited in part Cox’s age and lack of criminal history in imposing a more lenient sentence than the 10 to 16 months called for under federal guidelines.

“I believe this sentence is sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” he said.

Cox pleaded guilty in January to one count each of bank fraud and wire fraud.

She admitted stealing about $14,700 from the town of Havana, which has a population of just over 100. She also admitted stealing nearly $45,000 from Cross Point Baptist Church, where she served as treasurer.

In August 2011, she gave the Arvest Bank in Caney documents falsely stating the Havana City Council had voted to change its policy to require only one signature on checks, the U.S. attorney’s office said. In December 2011, she caused the church to electronically transfer more than $2,500 to make a mortgage payment due on her daughter’s house.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst urged the court to impose at least five months in prison plus five months of detention, saying the whole town was hurt by the thefts. The town of Havana almost went bankrupt and the church had to put off its new building.

Defense attorney Steven Gradert said there was no question people were harmed by the thefts, but said his client did it out of desperation.

“There is not really much we can say other than we are really sorry for this,” Gradert told the judge.

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