Questions arise over animal shelter donations

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BENNINGTON — The Second Chance Animal Center has made no decision whether to take action in the case of donations received from a longtime supporter who is accused of writing over $39,000 in false checks to himself from an 89-year-old woman's bank account.

Cathi Comar, Second Chance's executive director, confirmed that Jeffery Linebeck, 61, of Manchester, who pleaded not guilty to 19 felony charges related to the accusations in late November, has been a "long-term" supporter of the shelter with his partner, Steve Dunning, and the two made a substantial donation to the new facility.

The facility's Feline Intake Room is designated in honor of Dunning and Linebeck's donation, Comar said. The nearly 10,000-square-foot facility on Route 7A in Arlington opened to the public Oct. 30 with a project cost of approximately $3.5 million. Nearly $2.5 million was funded through grants and donations.

Comar says Second Chance does not have a policy regarding the return of monetary donations in case of an illegitimate donation, however, the donation could be reviewed by the center after Linebeck's trial is completed.

"Any determination by Second Chance about refunding any donated funds would depend on the verifiable facts of a particular case after any legal proceedings are completed and would be evaluated by our Board of Trustees," Comar said in an email.

Linebeck was arrested Nov. 21 and released on $10,000 bail Nov. 27, a day after he pleaded not guilty to the 19 charges against him. Court documents say the case will be trial-ready on May 15, 2018. Conditions of Linebeck's release include a no-contact order with the victim and the stipulation that he must reside in Bennington County.

An affidavit from the Manchester Police Department states the total of the funds exploited is over $39,000, but the victim's bank reports that "more may have been written on her account and they are in the process of getting a more complete accounting of the loss."

Police are investigating the additional reports.

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There are 10 separate dates ranging from March 26, 2017 to Nov. 2, 2018 where Linebeck allegedly deposited these checks into his bank account. The amounts of the checks range from $2,000 to $5,000 each time, police say.

In August 1997, Linebeck resigned from his position as a vice president of Factory Point National Bank after admitting he embezzled $22,000, the bank said in a lawsuit. Linebeck pledged to make restitution.

The bank claimed Linebeck embezzled over $65,000, according to the lawsuit.

According to a report published in the Manchester Journal citing the bank's lawsuit, Linebeck, whose position at the bank included oversight of its operations and computer system, had allegedly set up fraudulent loan accounts for his personal benefit in the names of his partner, Steven Dunning, and his deceased mother, Lois A. Linebeck.

According to an affidavit in a lawsuit filed against Linebeck by the bank, its auditor said the loans were established directly in the bank's computer system.

Federal prosecutors later charged Linebeck with embezzling $90,000 from the bank. He pleaded guilty to the charge in May 1998 and months later was sentenced to six months in prison and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution, and court records show those payments were completed in 2002.

Linebeck and Dunning own Circa50, a modern furniture store in Manchester Center.

Christie Wisniewski can be reached at cwisniewski@benningtonbanner.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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