A Monroe woman who stole thousands of dollars from her Columbus employer will be sentenced in December following her conviction Monday morning in Platte County District Court.
Jennifer A. Held, 46, pleaded no contest and was found guilty by Judge Robert Steinke of theft by deception in the amount of $5,000 or more, a Class IIA felony. If prosecuted to the full extent of Nebraska law, the defendant could face up to 20 years in prison at her 11 a.m., Dec. 28, sentencing.
Held, who is accused of embezzling just under $87,000 during an approximately three-year time span, is also scheduled for a restitution hearing at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27, according to court records.
On Monday, Held, being represented by Platte County Public Defender Tim Matas, was arraigned on the lone charge after four additional charges were dropped by the court. Charges dropped include three counts of second-degree forgery, Class III felonies; which the court determined the defendant was improperly charged upon, according to Matas, and one count of theft by deception.
A new pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report was ordered, which will be considered by the court prior to a sentence being levied.
On March 17, Sgt. Bret Strecker of the Columbus Police Department responded to a small electronics business located in the 2800 block of 33rd Avenue in regard to the business’ owner reporting a theft. Upon arrival, Strecker was presented with two checks that were written on the owner's business account to employee Jennifer Held, according to a warrantless arrest affidavit.
The checks, the business owner said, were not authorized and were not her regular payroll checks. Looking into business bank accounts, the owner learned there were a large number of checks that Held had written to herself that weren’t authorized.
Receiving bank records from 2015-2016, the affidavit says that Strecker was able to identify a large number out unauthorized checks written on the business owner’s account. The checks were made out to Jennifer Couts – Held’s maiden name prior to being married in August 2017. Following her marriage, court records show checks were made out to Jennifer Held. From April 3, 2015, through March 17, 2018, court records show the defendant allegedly stole $86,808.
After being confronted about the theft by police when she arrived at work on March 17, the affidavit shows that Held acknowledged writing extra checks to herself but said that she had no idea when it started or how much money was taken overall.
Court records show that Held told law enforcement that she used the money to pay bills, indicating she did not receive enough money from her job to cover them. The defendant was subsequently arrested and transported to Platte County Jail. Held posted her $25,000 bond on March 29, according to Lt. Dave Westfall of the jail.
Editors note: Clarifications were made from the original story posted on Monday, Nov. 26.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.