6-month sentence for LeBan | TahoeDailyTribune.com

6-month sentence for LeBan

It was fitting that Terry LeBan wore black for her sentencing.

LeBan, the former Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director, was sentenced to six months in El Dorado County Jail and ordered to pay restitution of more than $115,000 for embezzling funds from the organization.

“I ruined my life, my career, my future, my health,” LeBan said to Judge Jerald Lasarow. “It will probably be a daily reminder of what I did.”

Representatives from LTVA agreed with a probation report recommending LeBan receive 90 days in jail, but they were more concerned about receiving restitution.

In November 2001, LeBan and former Controller Debra Kirk were involved in a car crash off Kingsbury Grade that killed Kirk and left LeBan wearing a back brace for damaged vertebrae. The two fed a gambling addiction with more than $73,000 of LTVA funds.

The former executive director plead no contest to one felony embezzlement count in June. She took about $27,000 of the total, but shouldered the responsibility for the entire $73,786 in exchange for a lighter sentence.

LTVA lost loyalty and leadership, as well as money, when the crime and car accident occurred, said LTVA Chairwoman Deb Howard.

Howard requested jail time for LeBan, but stressed the importance of restitution.

More than $46,000 was added to the embezzled $73,000 for attorney and auditor fees, said LTVA attorney George Echan. LeBan provided LTVA with a $5,000 check which lowered the restitution amount to about $115,000.

LeBan and Kirk took money from February 2000 to November 2001. Defense attorney Richard Specchio said LeBan’s gambling addiction began with nickel video poker machines and grew into an unstoppable force.

As part of the five-year probation given to LeBan, Lasarow instructed her to avoid casinos and keep attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

“I hated to see her fall to this addiction,” said Stacy LeBan in a tearful plea to Lasarow. “The punishment she put on herself is so immense. Please don’t take my mom away from me.”

Eight family members and friends surrounded LeBan before her case was called. She sat next to her daughter and leaned on her left hand, which held a crumpled tissue. During sentencing, LeBan sat semi-slumped in her chair, head bowed slightly to the right and continued drying tears.

Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara believed restitution of the full amount to be unrealistic.

“Certainly this woman does not need to go to prison, but on the other hand this court is responsible to (the community),” he said.

Lasarow, initially unsure of the amount of jail time LeBan should receive, listened to LeBan’s daughter, brother and attorney before handing down the sentence.

“You had to know what you were doing was wrong, and what Mrs. Kirk was doing was wrong, but nobody put the brakes on it,” Lasarow said.

LeBan will begin her jail sentence on Jan. 10. She was unavailable for comment and her family members declined to speak after Friday’s sentencing.

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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