EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 9, 2013

Plaistow businessman jailed for stealing $200K

Former club treasurer took some $200K

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — BRENTWOOD — Local businessman Alan Colby was one of Plaistow’s first Eagle Scouts, according to his attorney.

But that was decades ago — long before the 52-year-old stole approximately $200,000 from the Plaistow Fish and Game Club.

Colby, the club’s former treasurer, was led off to the county jail for a year yesterday after being sentenced on six theft charges by Rockingham Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh. A jury convicted Colby in January of stealing $104,270 from the club after repaying nearly $100,000 more.

Colby also received a five- to 10-year suspended state prison sentence after his attorney, public defender Anthony Naro, told McHugh his client was an outstanding member of the community with “an unblemished history.”

“Alan Colby is a person who always wanted to help people,” Naro said. “I haven’t even seen a speeding ticket (in his record).”

He handed McHugh a list of Plaistow’s past Eagle Scouts, including Colby.

“What it speaks of is who Alan Colby is,” Naro said.

But Colby violated the Boy Scout oath when he embezzled money from the club between July 2008 and July 2010 to help his struggling construction company, Senter Brothers.

McHugh did not say whether Colby’s status as a Eagle Scout persuaded him to only give the defendant a year in jail. Prosecutor Stephanie Johnson recommended two and a half to seven years in state prison in addition to the suspended sentence.

Under state law, Colby could have received seven and a half to 15 years in prison on each of the felony theft charges.

McHugh did agree with Naro that Colby shouldn’t automatically be sent to state prison unless he violates the terms of his five-year probation.

“We do not believe that sending him to prison is a just and fair punishment,” Naro said.

But the judge rejected Naro’s request that Colby be allowed out on work release.

During the two-day trial in January, Naro told the jury how Colby intended to pay back all the money he took, but became overwhelmed with debt.

Colby, a 19-year member of the club, made a “stupid” decision to steal from the organization he loved and helped whenever he could, lending the use of his construction equipment for projects or plowing snow, Naro said.

During an interview with police, Colby admitted taking the money.

“I borrowed money without permission — that’s the bottom line,” Colby said. “I needed the money.”

Colby, dressed in a dark suit, did not offer an apology in court yesterday. On one side of the courtroom sat seven of his supporters, including relatives. On the other side sat five club members.

McHugh said he received letters of support for Colby from eight to 10 people, but felt he must impose a sentence that deterred others from committing similar crimes.

“He deserves to be confined for an extensive period of time,” the judge said.

McHugh said it was unfortunate because Colby was not a career criminal.

“But a lot of people in today’s economy are suffering and they don’t commit crimes,” he said. “You do the crime, you have to do the time.”

McHugh granted Naro’s request that Colby be released pending appeal of his conviction. Colby was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail, which Johnson protested.

She said Colby could flee the area. Earlier, she said, Colby’s thefts, which included 60 electronic transfers between accounts, made it difficult for the club to pay its bills. At one point, the club’s electricity was shut off, she said.

“It was terrible crime,” Johnson said.

As part of Colby’s sentence, he must repay $64,000 to the club and $40,000 to its insurance company.

Club members have said they were surprised when they first learned Colby may have stolen thousands of dollars from their organization.

The five members in court yesterday declined to comment on the sentence.

“We just want to get it over with,” one man said.