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Last updated on Thursday, November 7, 2013
(EVANSVILLE) - Everybody in the courtroom on Tuesday agreed that 81-year-old Marilee Garrison was unlikely to find herself in trouble with the law again.
However, there wasn't much agreement on how the Newburgh woman should be sentenced for her role in the theft of nearly $300,000 from a Masonic women's organization in Evansville.
Saying he didn't believe either prison or probation was appropriate for her, Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman sentenced Garrison to four years of house arrest and ordered her to make "a good-faith effort toward repaying what you can."
Last month Pigman found Garrison guilty of a Class C felony charge of conspiracy to commit theft after hearing arguments and evidence in the case in July.
"These people trusted you, put faith in you and personally trusted you and you betrayed them," he said.
Garrison was a 49-year member of the Order of the Eastern Star No. 555 organization, serving at different times as its treasurer and then its worthy matron, or chapter president. Her daughter, Susan Hilgeman, also was an officer and succeeded Garrison as treasure in 2008, according to court records. Indiana State Police arrested the women in April 2012 after an investigation that began when other chapter officers contacted police.
Attorney Terry White said Garrison never saw any of the money and was acting to cover up her daughter's actions. He said she made repeated attempts to hide the organization checkbook from Hilgeman.
White said Garrison was forced to choose between her daughter or her friends in the organization.
"I did choose my daughter over the chapter, but I really was a good, loyal member," Garrsion said.
White said Garrison had little income and could not afford to pay the monthly fee for electronic house arrest. He said he was representing her for free. He argued that Garrison should receive probation.
However, Deputy Prosecutor Brent Weil told Pigman that Garrison had shown no remorse.
"She testified that she made a conscience choice to cover this up," Weil said. "It went on for three years. She let her daughter steal them blind."
Much of the missing money was left to the organization by Daisy Pauline Hardy, an 89-year-old woman
killed in a natural gas explosion at her Lincoln Avenue house in April 2004. The gift was received in 2006 when her estate was settled.
Police said Garrison issued numerous unauthorized checks to Hilgeman, who also forged documents to represent bank statements in attempt to hide the missing funds from other Eastern Star members.
In November 2012, Hilgeman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation on charges of federal tax evasion. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young ordered her to serve her probation in a residential re-entry program and also to pay $62,887 restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
However, Circuit Court Judge David Kiely sentenced her to three years in prison in April after she pleaded guilty to state charges of conspiracy to commit theft and forgery. He also ordered Hilgeman to pay restitution. Kiely ordered the sentence to be served consecutive to the federal sentence, meaning Hilgeman will have to complete both.
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