- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) - A California man has pleaded guilty to swindling nearly $16,000 from the Roman Catholic center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but has avoided jail time.

Under terms of a plea deal, Andrew Wakewood, of Yucca Valley, was sentenced Tuesday in Hampshire Superior Court to 2 ½ years in jail with the entire sentence suspended for four years of probation. He was also ordered to repay the money.

Prosecutors say the Newman Catholic Center at UMass used checks to pay for purchases from the 32-year-old Wakewood’s company. Wakewood then made duplicates of the checks and used the money to pay off his own debts.

His defense attorney said Wakewood fell on hard financial times and made some “very bad decisions” in an effort to get out of debt.

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