Crime

She embezzled thousands from St. Martin High's football team but she's not going to prison

Melanie Pankonin sits in her bond hearing in Jackson County Court in Pascagoula on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Melanie Pankonin sits in her bond hearing in Jackson County Court in Pascagoula on Monday, March 6, 2017. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com file

A former secretary in the Jackson County School District was short on cash to pay bills when she embezzled thousands from a nonprofit group raising money for a football team.

Melanie Pankonin admitted guilt and was ordered to pay a total of $6,075 in restitution along with fines and court costs but was allowed to enter into a pre-trial diversion program for three years. If she pays full restitution, court costs and fines, she will not have a felony record.

Pankonin was vice-president of the Grid Iron Club, the nonprofit group that raises money for the St. Martin High School football team, when the embezzlement occurred.

Pankonin was also a secretary at St. Martin Upper Elementary School.

"We feel this was a good resolution due to her family still being involved in school," Assistant District Attorney Michael Dykes said. "This is the fastest way to get the children's money back into the athletic program."

The Jackson County School District agreed to the sentence in the case.

Initially, authorities estimated Pankonin had embezzled more than $15,000 in cash and merchandise, but after further review, officials determine the amount was less than initially estimated, a prosecutor said.

If Pankonin fails to complete the pre-trial diversion program, she could face a trial.

A grand jury indicted her on two counts of embezzlement. Each count carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Margaret Baker 228-896-0538, margar45
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