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Former UMass frat treasurer sentenced to jail after admitting to embezzling $133K

  • Christopher Estes, 53, of Rehoboth, is sworn in for a change of plea at Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, January 30, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Christopher Estes, 53, of Rehoboth, is handcuffed in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton, Monday, after pleading guilty to a single count of larceny greater than $250. Estes will serve one year in the Hampshire Jail and House of Correction, followed by probation. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Christopher Estes, 53, of Rehoboth, is handcuffed in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, January 30, 2017, after pleading guilty to a single count of larceny greater than $250. Estes will serve one year in the Hampshire Jail and House of Correction, with a second year suspended for five years while he serves probation. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@mjmajchrowicz
Friday, February 03, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A former treasurer of a University of Massachusetts Amherst fraternity who admitted to embezzling more than $130,000 from the organization was sentenced Monday morning to two years jail time.

Christopher Estes, 53, of Rehoboth, pleaded guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to a single count of larceny greater than $250 and will serve one year in the Hampshire Jail and House of Correction, with the other year suspended for five years while he serves probation.

From 2012 to 2014, Estes was a treasurer for the Alpha Tau Gamma fraternity at 118 Sunset Ave. in Amherst where he had full access to the group’s finances and wrote checks to himself, withdrawing cash from the fraternity’s account for personal use, First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said in court.

Estes admitted before Judge Mark Mason that he stole approximately $133,000 — some of which he funneled into his real estate business by enticing clients with Red Sox season tickets, as well as paying off credit cards and utilities, Gagne said. The prosecutor said Estes took money from the fraternity on 184 separate occasions.

Gary Shepherd, alumni president for the fraternity, told the court about the sense of betrayal that struck him when he learned about the tens of thousands of dollars Estes admitted to stealing.

“We certainly did not anticipate embarking down this road. It’s a sad day … but this is a day that needs to happen,” Shepherd said.

The effects of the theft, he added, have been significant and long-lasting.

“It has shaken the very pillars on which we stand,” Shepherd said. “But as a small organization, we’ve managed to weather this.”

Estes’ attorney, Korrina Burnham of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, told the judge her client has been employed at a tractor company the past year and has been attempting to come up with the money — a small amount of which he’s already paid back — to reimburse the fraternity. A sentence of incarceration, she said, would cost Estes his job and consequently his means to pay back what he stole.

“If the fraternity is inclined to want their money back, which it seems they are, it doesn’t make sense to send Mr. Estes to jail,” Burnham said.

Burnham also talked about Estes’ family, noting that he has a wife and a teenage son. The wife did not make the trip to court on Monday because she feared she could not bear to the see the sight of her husband being sentenced to time behind bars, Burnham said.

Mason said he recognized Estes’ apparent cooperation with investigators and willingness to take responsibility for his actions. Estes himself admitted to investigators and even fraternity associates he had stolen money, but he was not entirely up front as far as how much he stole, Gagne said in court. Mason ultimately decided some jail time fit the crime.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com